What we do.

Lab pictureResearch Interests: Pathogenesis and treatment of the human pathogen, Chlamydia: 1) Regulation of gene expression, 2) Host-pathogen interactions, 3) Novel treatment approaches

Our research in the fields of bacterial pathogenesis and infectious diseases looks at how the intracellular bacterium, Chlamydia, causes disease. Chlamydial infections are the most commonly reported infectious disease in the country. Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common cause of bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the developed world, and a leading cause of preventable blindness in the underdeveloped world. A second species, Chlamydia pneumoniae, has been associated with atherosclerotic heart disease. All chlamydial species share an unusual developmental cycle that takes place within a eukaryotic host cell.

To understand this developmental cycle, and how chlamydiae survive and replicate inside mammalian cells to cause disease, we have been studying how this organism regulates the expression of its genes. Using molecular biology, biochemistry and bioinformatics approaches, we have been studying how chlamydiae is able to coordinately regulate subsets of genes in response to environmental and metabolic signals. The mechanisms we have studied include transcriptional regulation by alternative forms of RNA polymerase, transcription factors and changes in DNA supercoiling. To examine the effects of a chlamydial infection on the host cell, we have a joint Chlamydia cell biology project with Dr. Christine Suetterlin, of the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology.

We have been investigating the mechanism that leads to centrosome amplification, and these studies may help explain the association of chlamydial infections with cervical cancer, perhaps as a co-factor with human papillomavirus. We are also studying host protein transport to the chlamydial inclusion. Because of the continued prevalence of chlamydial infections, we are examining the effect of antimicrobial peptides against chlamydiae as an approach to develop new antichlamydial antibiotics.