Developmental and Cellular Biology Professor Christine Suetterlin is the Primary Investigator on a new R01 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Together with Professor Ming Tan from the School of Medicine, the researchers will study the pathogenic bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis) during its infection of human cells. This intracellular infection causes multiple effects on its host cell, including alterations that may contribute to infertility and cervical cancer in Chlamydia-infected individuals. This study may lead to novel therapeutic strategies against Chlamydia infection.
The grant will allow the research teams led by Professor Suetterlin and Professor Tan to define the molecular mechanisms underlying two novel host-pathogen interactions. They have discovered that C. trachomatis causes the infected host cell to lose its primary cilium, which is a key signaling organelle, and to alter its progression through the cell cycle. This grant complements another NIH R01 that this team has recently been awarded to investigate the complex developmental cycle of this bacterium within its host cell.
Chlamydia is the most common cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infections in the US, with more cases of chlamydia reported to the CDC each year than all other infectious diseases combined. Chlamydia genital tract infections can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, and have been linked with cervical cancer, as a potential co-factor for human papillomavirus (HPV). The number of Chlamydia infections continues to increase each year, highlighting the need for new treatment and prevention strategies. Successful completion of this project may lead to novel therapeutics against this serious ongoing threat to public health.