Molecular Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenesis

Course Number: 
Course Type: 
Currently Offered: 
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Ramakrishnan, Lalita
Course Description: 

Mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis explored at the molecular, genetic, and cellular levels. We emphasize how these relate to disease, and in so doing, we take both a medical and an evolutionary perspective.  The course highlights the very fundamentals of the biology of pathogenic microbes and of the host immune defenses that have evolved to counter them.

Learning Objectives: 

The student will have gained perspective on what constitutes a pathogen and the complexities involved in such a definition.  They will have learnt about the microbiological, molecular genetic techniques that are used to study bacterial pathogensis.  They will have acquired a historical perspective of this very old discipline and have learnt to frame host-pathogen interactions in an evolutionary context.

MICROM 411 or equivalent.
Course requirements, examinations and grading: 

We expect a high level of participation and intellectual engagement.   The course will comprise lectures often followed by a discussion of a key paper for this area.  The paper will have been assigned in the prior the class or soon thereafter.  All students will be expected to have read the paper and be ready to engage in discussing it.  We will also have weekly questions requiring short answers that will be handed out soon after one class and expected back at the next class in printed format. The final exam will have similar questions and will be conducted in class.  Students will be assessed by their weekly problems sets, the final exam and their class participation. 

Sample Schedule:

Week Tues Thurs
  1 The credentials of a pathogen or A hitchhikers guide to the host Intracellular lifestyles
  2 Exotoxins/Toxin Mediated Disease Pili/Adherence
  3 Specialized Secretion Systems (II,III,IV,V,VI) Mycobacterium and T7SS
  4 Secretion system effectors- plethora of cellular targets (host & other bugs), redundancy Regulation of virulence determinants - overview
  5 The double edged sword of LPS, cell wall, flagellin and other PAMPs Quorum sensing
  6 Second Messengers Metabolism and Virulence
  7 Polymicrobial Diseases Acute vs. chronic infections
  8 Antibiotics/Vaccines: targets, mechanism of action Antibiotics and efflux
  9 Historical View Becoming a pathogen: Phylogenetic diversity of pathogens. Neighboring pathogenic and non-pathogenic species. How do pathogens arise/evolve?
 10 Review Final Exam
Areas of Interest: 
Microbiology, Infection & Immunity