Robert Bastidas, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Box 3580 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710
Our group is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms deployed by bacterial pathogens to survive inside human cells. The intracellular environments of human cells are extremely hostile for invading pathogens due to the presence of robust antimicrobial defense mechanisms. Yet, some pathogens can thrive and multiply within this environment. We utilize the bacterial pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis as a model system for understanding how bacterial pathogens can survive intracellularly and the counteracting molecular mechanisms employed by human cells to restrict and eliminate invading pathogens.
Chlamydia trachomatis is an excellent model system for studying host-pathogen interactions because it has evolved into an obligate intracellular pathogen that requires human cells to proliferate. Our group focuses on identifying bacterial proteins (effectors) secreted by Chlamydia for manipulating human cellular defenses and scavenging for nutrients. We have generated a collection of over 1,000 Chlamydia mutants that have been arrayed, and all mutations present in their genomes have been mapped by high-throughput whole genome sequencing. From high content screening of our collection in cellular models of infection, we have identified multiple effectors used by Chlamydia to subvert human cellular functions. Currently, we are working on two secreted effector proteins that function as deubiquitinase mimics. These proteins catalyze the removal of post translational modifications used by human cells to regulate a multitude of signaling pathways that range from pathogen surveillance and innate immune responses to vesicle trafficking. We have found several bacterial and human proteins targeted by these bacterial deubiquitinases and are utilizing a wide range of approaches, including genetics, biochemistry, microscopy, high-throughput screening, and novel genetic tools, to characterize how these effectors promote Chlamydia intracellular growth and virulence.
For an up to date list of publications from my group, please click on the following link: