Microbial Pathogenesis of Oral Organisms

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CHUNHAO (CHRIS) LI, MD  personal profile

Understanding the basic biology and pathogenesis of spirochetes

Spirochetes are a group of medically important but poorly understood bacteria, which can cause numerous human and animal diseases, including syphilis (Treponema), Lyme disease (Borrelia), leptospirosis (Leptospira), and human periodontal diseases (oral Treponema species), as well as swine dysentery and human diarrhea (Serpulina). The research in my laboratory is currently trying to understand the basic biology and pathogenesis of the pathogenic spirochetes, including the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and the oral spirochete Treponma denticola, by using a genetic, biochemical, genomic, proteomic, and animal model approach.

My current research efforts are directed to the following specific projects: 

  1. To elucidate the unique complex structure of periplasmic flagella (PFs) of spirochetes by using the spirochete Serpulina hyodysenteriae as a genetic model.

  2. To understand the molecular mechanisms of motility and chemotaxis and their roles in the pathogenesis of Lyme disease spirochete B. burgdorferi.

  3. To investigate the roles of bacterial two-component signaling pathways and small signaling molecules c-di-GMP in the biology and pathogenesis of the spirochetes.