The infection biologist Christoph Dehio, Professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, studies at the molecular level how bacterial pathogens cause chronic infections. With the ERC project worth 1.7 million euro Dehio and his research group aim to identify novel protein modifications catalyzed by bacterial Fic proteins and to elucidate their specific roles in the course of bacterial infections, which may also help identifying new approaches for combating infectious diseases.
The currently known 6800 Fic proteins are found in diverse organisms, ranging from bacteria to humans. Fic proteins are characterized by an enzymatic activity that results in the attachment of different chemical groups to specific target proteins, thus altering their structure and function. Some bacterial pathogens inject Fic proteins into host cells in order to modify their biochemical and immune function, thereby contributing to the capacity of the pathogen to persistently colonize these cells. Other Fic proteins can slow down the growth of bacteria, and thus may favor bacterial persistence in the host despite of antibiotic treatment. For these reasons Fic proteins are considered to play diverse roles in the course of bacterial infections.
Of the many Fic proteins identified, so far only few have been characterized on the functional level. In the coming five years, Dehio will investigate the broad spectrum of Fic proteins in the model pathogen Bartonella, on the one hand, to identify novel target proteins and new forms of chemical modification by the Fic enzymatic activities, and on the other hand, to elucidate the mechanisms of action on the molecular level, in particular the structure-function relationship, and their consequences for the course of infection. His findings should reveal fundamentally novel aspects of the bacterial infection strategy, but may also contribute to the development of innovative approaches for therapy.
Christoph Dehio is a Professor of Infection Biology at the Biozentrum since 2000. He graduated in 1992 with his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, followed by post-doctoral training at the “Institut Pasteur” in Paris. Prior to his appointment to the Biozentrum in 2000, he worked as a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen. For his research achievements Dehio has received several awards, including the Main Prize of the German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology and the Pfizer Research Prize for Infectiology. He has been an “International Research Scholar” of the renowned Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is a Member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).
In awarding an “ERC Advanced Investigator Grant”, the European Research Council recognizes the outstanding achievements of leading research scientists and supports them in implementing innovative and promising research projects over a period of up to five years. Including Prof. Dehio, there have been four scientists from the Biozentrum distinguished with this prestigious and highly competitive contribution to their research.
Contact: Communications, Katrin Bühler