Molecular dissection of the Campylobacter jejuni regulatory system CprRS and its control of key aspects of pathogenesis and biofilm formation

Campylobacter jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning in the developed world. Infection with C. jejuni typically presents as severe gastroenteritis, termed campylobacteriosis, and presents as intense, often bloody, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps. Prior infection correlates strongly with autoimmune disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and alarmingly, Guillain-Barré syndrome. Furthermore, antibiotic resistance is skyrocketing in C. jejuni isolates, and an effective human vaccine is not presently available. Currently, very little is known about the virulence mechanisms of C. jejuni. Even less is understood about how this fastidious organism survives and thrives in hostile environments, including those associated with environmental transmission and in vivo stresses such as acid, bile and the immune system. In her research, Sarah Svensson is characterizing the CprRS (Campylobacter planktonic growth regulation) two-component regulatory system (TCRS). TCRS represents ideal targets for antibiotic treatment due to their omnipresence in bacteria (and not humans) and control of phenomena related to virulence. By determining 1) genes that comprise the CprRS regulon; 2) how information is relayed from the environment through CprRS and connected regulatory proteins to elicit the appropriate physiological response; and 3) how survival strategies such as biofilm formation are controlled by CprRS, will contribute to our understanding of what makes apparently fragile bacterial pathogens such as C. jejuni so prevalent. As a result, this work will also provide a framework for design of novel infection control antimicrobial treatment, and vaccine strategies for an underappreciated bacterial pathogen.