Our research focuses on defining the molecular mechanisms by which intracellular bacteria remodel the host cell to create a pathogen-tailored niche for replication.
The Di Russo Case lab's current research interest is defining the molecular mechanisms of Coxiella burnetii pathogenesis. Coxiella burnetii causes the human disease Q fever, which can appear as an acute, severe respiratory disease, or a debilitating chronic illness. This intracellular bacterium prefers to infect the resident macrophages of the lung, and replicates within an intracellular compartment that resembles a mature phagolysosome.
To investigate its unique pathogenic properties, we use a cellular model that employs primary mouse macrophages. The macrophage infection model allows us to ask fundamental questions about how C. burnetii modulates its host cell and evades destruction by host innate immune defenses.
Other tools we have incorporated include bacterial genetics, an animal model of disease, transcriptomics, and cell biological techniques to form a multidisciplinary approach to investigating Coxiella pathogenesis. Long-term, I plan to use Coxiella infection to answer fundamental questions about the defenses macrophages employ against invading pathogens and how bacteria evade them. I believe that my distinctive infection model will allow me to discover novel mechanisms of Coxiella pathogenesis while uncovering unappreciated facets of macrophage biology.