Drs. Bomberger and Flitter published in PNAS
Dr. Jennifer Bomberger’s laboratory recently published study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes how a bacterial toxin inhibits normal immune responses that resolve inflammation in the lung. The Bomberger lab studies the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes life-threatening infections in patients with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF). Persistent P. aeruginosa infections, combined with robust inflammatory responses in the airway, lead to tissue destruction and eventually respiratory failure in CF patients.
The current study by Dr. Bomberger’s research team, with Dr. Becca Flitter as lead author, reveals that P. aeruginosa secretes a virulence factor with epoxide hydrolase activity, called Cif, which manipulates immune cell lipid signaling important for reducing inflammation in the airway. In a CF patient population, the presence of this virulence factor and ensuing inflammation correlated with reduced pulmonary function. Additional studies, in collaboration with Dr. Dean Madden at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, have identified Cif homologs in other bacterial species, including Acinetobacter and Burkholderia (Bahl CD et al. J Biol Chem, 2014). This interesting finding suggests that bacterial epoxide hydrolases may represent a novel virulence strategy that is shared by multiple respiratory pathogens. Future work will focus on identifying therapeutics that block the activity of these enzymes for clinical applications.
Drs. Becca Flitter and Jennifer Bomberger.