Host-pathogen interactions in Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen of the human lung in immunocompromised individuals and in particular in patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. One of the features of P. aeruginosa infection that makes it so hard to treat is the ability of the bacteria to form biofilms. These are bacterial communities encased in an extensive matrix, or slime, composed primarily of polyscaccharides and proteins. The biofilm provides a protective microenvironment that shields the bacteria from the host immune system, and also from drug treatments. Switching of the bacteria from the free-living planktonic state to biofilm formation is controlled by population density, which the bacteria sense through a mechanism called quorum sensing. Quorum sensing is mediated by small signalling molecules that can diffuse from one bacterium to another. Remarkably, these molecules can also interact with receptors present in human cells and can influence the inflammatory response in ways that may exacerbate disease. We are using structural methods to study the interactions of quorum sensing molecules with bacterial and host receptors.

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Team Members

  • Dr David Gell (Member)
  • Associate Professor Margaret Cooley (Member)
  • Dr Louise Roddam (Honorary Associate)