Study Explores How Chlamydia Bacteria Control Infected Cells

MERCED - Top-level scientific research takes years from its inception to its ultimate goal of publication in peer-reviewed journals. Professor David Ojcius (OH-shus) of the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences is celebrating the completion of that process for one of his projects, a study of the mechanisms by which the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium propagates itself within human cells published today by the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Chlamydia is a bacterium that causes one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. The infection commonly leads to infertility and can cause blindness in babies born to infected mothers.

The research detailed in Ojcius' paper, titled "Recruitment of BAD by the Chlamydia trachomatis Vacuole Correlates with Host-Cell Survival," improves understanding of how the bacteria control the enzymes inside an infected host cell, keeping it alive long enough so that they can reproduce and spread the infection.

"Understanding the mechanisms of the disease should eventually lead us to better ways to prevent and treat it," Ojcius explains. "A vaccine or microbicide would be especially important because most individuals do not realize they are infected with Chlamydia until the infection has already done significant damage to their reproductive organs."

Ojcius describes PLoS Pathogens as a "hot" journal, a place where it's an honor for him and his colleagues to publish this paper. He explains that they began the research while he was still working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, where he spent 12 years before joining the faculty at UC Merced in January 2004.

"From this side, I've mostly been organizing experiments by e-mail and writing the paper," he says. His coauthors on the paper are his former lab colleagues Philippe Verbeke, Lynn Welter-Stahl and Jon Hansen of the University of Paris; Songmin Ying and Georg Hacker of the Munich Technical Institute; and Toni Darville of the University of Arkansas.

PLoS Pathogens is an open-access journal published by the nonprofit organization Public Library of Science. From molecules to physiology, PLoS Pathogens publishes important new ideas on bacteria, fungi, parasites, prions and viruses that contribute to our understanding of the biology of pathogens and pathogen-host interactions. All works published in PLoS Pathogens are open access. Everything is immediately available--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use--without cost to anyone, anywhere subject only to the condition that the original authorship is properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.

UC Merced opened September 5, 2005 as the 10th campus in the University of California system and the first American research university to open in the 21st century. The campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping out at approximately 25,000 students within 30 years.

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