Binding of the gonococcal pili to human epithelial cells elicited a so far unknown anti-phagocytic feature, leading to the formation of cortical plaques and prevention of the internalization of attached bacteria. E.g., Boettcher et al., PLoS Biol (210).
For studying the mechanisms of Helicobacter pylori infection and cell transformation in vitro, it was necessary to establish a suitable epithelial model. A breakthrough was obtained upon the establishment of gastric epithelial organoids and mucosoids that combine quasi-indefinite growth with the reproduction of in-vivo-like infection conditions. E.g., Boxberger et al., Eur J Cell Biol (1993), Boxberger et al., Epithelial Cell Biol (1994), Schlaermann et al., Gut (2016) and Boccellato et al., Gut (2018). A similar organoid model was established to study Salmonella Paratyphi A infections of gallbladder cells. Sepe LP et al., mBio (2020).
Using advanced techniques and thorough bioinformatics analyses, we aim to identify genetic signatures that bacterial pathogens leave behind in human cancers, proving a causative role in carcinogenesis. Two very recent highlights of this ambitious research show that E. Coli‘s genotoxin, colibactin, causes double-strand breaks, resulting in a specific pattern of mutations in murine and human cells as well as in human colorectal cancer. Dziubańska-Kusibab et al. Nature Medicine (2020) and Iftekhar et al. Nature Comm (2021) .