Engineering of obligate intracellular bacteria: Progress, challenges and paradigms

Erin E. McClure, Adela S.Oliva Chávez, Dana K. Shaw, Jason A. Carlyon, Roman R. Ganta, Susan M. Noh, David O. Wood, Patrik M. Bavoil, Kelly A. Brayton, Juan J. Martinez, Jere W. McBride, Raphael H. Valdivia, Ulrike G. Munderloh, Joao H.F. Pedra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


It is estimated that approximately one billion people are at risk of infection with obligate intracellular bacteria, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms that govern their life cycles. The difficulty in studying Chlamydia spp., Coxiella spp., Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma spp., Ehrlichia spp. and Orientia spp. is, in part, due to their genetic intractability. Recently, genetic tools have been developed; however, optimizing the genomic manipulation of obligate intracellular bacteria remains challenging. In this Review, we describe the progress in, as well as the constraints that hinder, the systematic development of a genetic toolbox for obligate intracellular bacteria. We highlight how the use of genetically manipulated pathogens has facilitated a better understanding of microbial pathogenesis and immunity, and how the engineering of obligate intracellular bacteria could enable the discovery of novel signalling circuits in host-pathogen interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-558
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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