Dr. Carmen Faso

Mechanisms of unconventional protein secretion

In our group, we study mechanisms of unconventional protein secretion in two intestinal parasitic protists called Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica.
We aim to employ a range of methods to determine the composition, phylogenetic history and structural identity of molecular machinery involved in the secretion of parasitic virulence factors. These molecules cause damage to the parasitized host and are often secreted unconventionally using mechanisms that are currently unknown.

Please visit my website for further information about my scientific profile and interests

Research summary

Communication is intrinsic to life. Molecular exchange is one form of communication employed throughout all forms of life, including eukaryotic unicellular parasites. These organisms depend entirely on their hosts for survival, feeding off of host-acquired nutrients and often reproducing within them.

Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica are two such parasitic species causing giardiasis and entamoebiasis, respectively. These parasites colonize the intestinal tract of practically all vertebrates and in humans, they mainly cause diarrheal disease but may also lead to more permanent tissue and organ damage. Combined, G. lamblia and E. histolytica are responsible for over 300 million cases of diarrheal disease worldwide.

It has been known for several years that Giardia and Entamoeba establish infection by releasing specific proteins called virulence factors that help these parasites colonize hosts while modulating the host’s ability to counteract the invasion through the immune system.

Although several secreted parasite proteins have been identified, the mechanisms that regulate this important phenomenon are still unknown. For this reason, our lab aims to determine the identity, composition and distribution of the molecular machines that mediate transport of virulence factors from the parasite cell to the host’s environment. Unravelling the nature of these machines may provide novel therapeutic targets while shedding light on unconventional strategies for molecular communication at the host-parasite interface.

Research in our laboratory is generously supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation PRIMA granting scheme.

A position for a graduate student will become available from 02.01.2020

 

In our group, we study mechanisms of unconventional protein secretion in two intestinal parasitic protists called Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica. We aim to employ a range of methods to determine the composition, phylogenetic history and structural identity of molecular machinery involved in the secretion of parasitic virulence factors. These molecules cause damage to the parasitized host and are often secreted unconventionally using mechanisms that are currently unknown.

The project features collaborations with teams at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the University of Bristol in Great Britain and the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Germany, and is funded by a PRIMA grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The successful applicant will join a small (principal investigator and lab manager) and vibrant research team and will be part of the Graduate School of Cell Biology at the University of Bern.

Applications are welcomed only electronically as single pdf files including a CV, transcript of BSc and MSc scores and a motivation letter for applying to this position.

 

Applications and/or requests for more information should be sent electronically to the following address: carmen.faso@izb.unibe.ch