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Chlamydia parasite lives off our fat

Invasive bacterial pathogens, the Chlamydiae know us very, very well. The Chlamydiae learned to parasitize eukaryotic cells half a billion years ago by reprogramming cellular functions from within. In humans today, chlamydial infections are responsible for a range of ailments from sexually transmitted infections to atypical pneumonias to chronic severe disorders such as pelvic inflammatory disease and atherosclerosis. The Centers for Disease Control says that Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the US, with three million new cases a year.

Chlamydia gets around because it knows its hosts so well. It's an "obligate intracellular parasite" which means that it relies on its eukaryotic host for everything from reproduction to synthesizing ATP, all while living inside a membrane-bounded vacuole that provides a protected, fertile environment for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Because lipid acquisition from the host is necessary for chlamydial replication, these pathogens are essentially lipid parasites. So, to add insult to injury, Chlamydia apparently lives on our fat.

Lipid droplets are fat-rich structures found in all eukaryotic cells. In humans, lipid droplets are abundant in adipocytes, our professional fat storage cells, where they have traditionally been regarded as passive storage depots of excess fat. However, recent studies have reassessed their role. Lipid droplets are now known to be motile, dynamic and enriched for proteins known to regulate lipid synthesis, membrane traffic and cell signaling. Now in new research presented Sunday at the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco, Yadunanda Kumar and Raphael Valdivia of Duke University Medical Center report that Chlamydia loves our lipid droplets.

The discovery of an interaction between lipid droplets and Chlamydia was made as Kumar and Valdivia performed the genetic equivalent of an end-run. Chlamydia is
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Source:American Society for Cell Biology


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