CHLAMYDIAL PATHOGENESIS: Playing Hide-and-Seek with Intracellular Pathogens

Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular pathogen and the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection. The rate of C. trachomatis infections continues to rise and is a significant threat to public health. Though chlamydial infections are typically treatable, reinfections and treatment failure are a growing issue. For this reason, there is a desperate need to evaluate novel drug targets in C. trachomatis for the development of new therapeutics. Our research targets virulence mechanisms to disable chlamydial pathogenicity while decreasing selective pressures that lead to resistance.

 

Because C. trachomatis has shed much of its genome, it is dependent on the cooption of host resources and functions. We hypothesize that retained genes are essential for infectivity, pathogenesis, or growth, making the associated gene products  potential antichlamydial targets. Our current research interests are geared towards the functional validation of chlamydial enzymes in an effort to elucidate information about chlamydial pathogenesis reveal such therapeutic targets.

Active projects employ a wide variety of techniques. We are using advanced cloning techniques and mammalian cell culture experiments to study essential enzymatic pathways  (graduate student Brianne Dudiak). We are also using semi- and total synthetic organic chemistry to access probes for understanding the role of key chlamydial enzymes (graduate student Taylor Outlaw). Additionally, we are utilizing both in silico and in vitro screening techniques to design, synthesize, and optimize novel inhibitors of essential enzymatic pathways.