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Leading cause of US food-borne illness makes its own pathway through cells

New Haven, Conn. -- Yale researchers now have some answers about how the bacterium that is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States enters cells of the gut and avoids detection and destruction, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Diego in December.

While scientists are just beginning to answer basic questions about how Campylobacter jejuni (campylobacter) causes infection, Robert Watson, a graduate student in the Section of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University School of Medicine worked out a better way to study the bacteria and reported that it takes an uncommon path as it infects cells.

Since the intestinal lining cells that campylobacter infects do not normally take up bacteria -- or any particles as large as bacteria -- Watson and his advisor, Jorge Galn, the Lucille P Markey Professor of Microbiology and Cell Biology, set out to investigate the path of infection through cells. They found that campylobacter apparently enters into the endocytic pathway that cells use to recycle molecules from their surface. It then quickly diverts its path, creating its own intracellular network of campylobacter-filled vacuoles, or cellular pockets, that make their way toward the nucleus, and finally locate near the cell's transportation hub, the Golgi apparatus.

"It's been known for over two decades that campylobacter can enter intestinal epithelial cells -- but until now no one could show how it was taken up or where it localized. That suggested it had evolved a special mechanism for uptake," said Watson. "Campylobacter seems to have found a special access to these cells and established its own intracellular niche."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that "campylobacteriosis," one of the most common causes of diarrhea worldwide, strikes 2.4 million Americans a year. Most sufferers recover after a few unpleasant days, but it can
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Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
janet.emanuel@yale.edu
203-432-2157
Yale University
11-Jan-2007


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