Salmonella are facultative intracellular pathogens which cause significant diseases in humans and animals. These organisms are responsible for several disease syndromes, including enteric (typhoid) fever, gastroenteritis, bacteremias and focal infections. Typhoid fever is a severe systemic illness which is mostly a problem in the developing world and in travelers. Nontyphoidal salmonella infections are increasing in the USA and are largely associated with contaminated food. Salmonellae infections are most severe in infants, the elderly, and in immunosuppressed individuals. This grant proposes to study the mechanism by which Salmonellae survive host innate immune killing. Innate immune killing involves the non-antigen specific mechanisms by which animals eliminate invading bacteria. Included in innate immune mechanisms are antimicrobial peptides produced at mucosal surfaces and within phagocytic cell granules and cytokines produced in response to recognition of bacterial lipid A. Pathogens such as Salmonellae have mechanisms to resist these killing mechanisms that are environmentally regulated. The genes encoding these mechanisms are the subject of this grant. They include the virulence regulators PhoP/PhoQ that respond to signals within host tissues and induce genes necessary for resistance to innate immune killing. These regulators are essential for human and animal virulence. PhoP/PhoQ regulate genes involved in surface remodeling of bacteria. These genes include those responsible for modification of the lipid and protein components of the outer membrane. This grant proposes to define the mechanism by which the PhoQ sensor histidine kinase is activated in response to environmental signals. This grant will also study the mechanisms by which the PhoP/Q regulated remodeling of membrane lipids occurs and its role in bacterial virulence and the structure.
The specific aims of this proposal are to define the structure and function of PhoQ, the genes and proteins involved in membrane remodeling, microbial virulence and resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides.
This grant will research how salmonellae survive attack from the host's immune system, which will contribute to an improved understanding of, and treatments for, salmoneallae-induced illnesses. Salmonella organisms are responsible for several disease syndromes, including enteric (typhoid) fever, gastroenteritis, bacteremias and focal infections. Salmonellae infections are most severe in infants, the elderly, and in immunosuppressed individuals. Currently Salmonellae are the number one cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States.
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