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Study Explores How Chlamydia Bacteria Control Infected Cells

May 18, 2006

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.