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The Uncommon Pathway of Campylobacter Jejuni

Robert Watson, a graduate student in the Section of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University School of Medicine has found the uncommon path taken by Campylobacter// jejuni (campylobacter), as it infects cells.

Records show 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 be life threatening to those with compromised immune systems including individuals with AIDS. In addition, a rare but serious complication of campylobacter infection triggers off the autoimmune disorder, Guillain-Barré paralysis.

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 Galán, 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."

"Chicken has been a notorious as a source of campylobacter," said Watson. "While the public has been aware of salmonella as a contaminant, the January 2007 issue of Consumer Reports highlights the increase in campylobacter as a problem. Their nationwide analysis of fresh, market
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