Host cell signaling in bacterial infection (Cellular microbiology-laboratory)​​

Description of research:


Cellular microbiology-laboratory studies molecular mechanisms of the host cell-bacterial pathogen interaction. We aim to understand how host cell signaling is regulated in bacterial infection to orchestrate pathogen clearance, and how pathogen utilizes secreted proteins to counterattack the host anti-bacterial responses. The special focus is on post-translation modification called ADP-ribosylation. Our ultimate goal is to gain knowledge allowing development of new and targeted therapeutics for emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 


The special focus of the Cellular microbiology-laboratory is on zoonotic (transmission from animals to human) bacterial pathogens such as those belonging to bacterial genera BartonellaLeptospira and SalmonellaTo support our structural and functional genomics-driven projects on secreted immunomodulatory bacterial proteins, we conduct research with a number of national and international collaborators on field (various mammals, e.g. bats and rodents as well as insects, e.g. ticks and flies) and clinical samples in detection, isolation and sequencing of strains with novel properties. At the same time, we increase awareness of zoonotic bacterial pathogens and associated emerging infectious diseases.   


Members of the research group:


Katja Näreoja, PhD (post doc) 

Moona Miettinen, MSc (PhD student)
Madhukar Vedantham, MSc (PhD student)​
Olli Laaksoaho (biomedical student)​
Rita Pinto, BSc (Erasmus exchange student)

Sakina Begum, BSc (MSc student)
Arttu Laisi (medical student)
Antti Kaatiala (medical student)

Selected publications: 


Miettinen, M., Vedantham, M., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2019) Host poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) in acute and chronic bacterial infections. Microbes and Infection (in press)

Regier, Y., Komma, K., Weigel, M., Kraiczy, P., Laisi, A., Pulliainen, A.T., Hain, T., and Kempf, V.A.J. (2019) Combination of microbiome analysis and serodiagnostics to assess the risk of pathogen transmission by ticks to humans and animals in central Germany. Parasites & Vectors 12:11. 


Loimaranta, V., Hepojoki, J., Laaksoaho, O., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2018) Galectin-3-binding protein – a multitask glycoprotein with innate immunity functions in viral and bacterial infections. Journal of Leukocyte Biology 104:777-786. 


Regier, Y., Komma, K., Weigel, M., Pulliainen, A.T., Goettig, S., Hain, T., and Kempf, V.A.J. (2018) Microbiome analysis reveals the presence of Bartonella spp. and Acinetobacter spp. in deer keds (Lipoptena cervi). Frontiers in Microbiology 9:3100  


Lilley, T.M., Wilson, C.A., Bernard, R.F., Willcox, E.V., Vesterinen, E.J., Webber, Q.M.R., Kurpiers, L., Prokkola, J.M., Ejotre, I., Kurta, A., Field, K.A., Reeder, D.M., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2017) Molecular detection of Candidatus Bartonella mayotimonensis in North American bats. Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 17:243-246.


Hokynar, K., Vesterinen, E.J., Lilley, T.M., Pulliainen, A.T., Korhonen, S.J., Paavonen, J., and Puolakkainen, M. (2016) Molecular evidence of Chlamydia-like organisms in the feces of Myotis daubentonii bats. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2:e02951-16


Gillespie, J.J., Phan, I.Q.H., Scheib, H., Subramanian, S., Edwards, T.E, Lehman, S.S., Piitulainen, H., Rahman, M.S., Rennoll-Bankert, K.E., Staker, B.L., Taira, S., Stacy, R., Myler, P.J., Azad, A.F., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2015) Structural insight into how bacteria prevent interference between multiple divergent type IV secretion systems. mBio 6:e01867-15.


Lilley, T.M., Veikkolainen, V., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2015) Molecular detection of Candidatus Bartonella hemsundetiensis in bats. Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 15:706-708.


Korhonen, E., Pérez Vera, C., Pulliainen, A.T., Sironen, T., Aaltonen, K., Kortet, R., Härkönen, L., Härkönen, S., Paakkonen, T., Nieminen, P., Mustonen, A., Ylönen, H., and Vapalahti, O. (2015) Molecular detection of Bartonella spp. in deer ked pupae, adult keds and moose blood in Finland. Epidemiology and Infection 143:578-585.


Veikkolainen, V., Vesterinen, E.J., Lilley, T.M., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2014) Bats as reservoir hosts of human bacterial pathogen, Bartonella mayotimonensis. Emerging Infectious Diseases 20:960-967. 


Oksi, J., Rantala, S., Kilpinen, S., Silvennoinen, R., Vornanen, M., Veikkolainen, V., Eerola, E., and Pulliainen, A.T. (2013) Cat scratch disease caused by Bartonella grahamiiin an immunocompromised patient. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 51:2781-2784.


Pulliainen, A.T., Piels, K., Brand, C., Hauert, B., Böhm,A., Quebatte, M., Wepf, A., Gstaiger, M., Aebersold, R., Dessauer, C., and Dehio, C. (2012) Bacterial effector binds host cell adenylyl cyclase to potentiate Gs-dependent cAMP production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:9581-9586.


Pulliainen, A.T., and Dehio, C. (2012) Persistence of Bartonella spp. stealth pathogens: from sub-clinical infections to vasoproliferative tumor formation. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 36:563-599. 


Kouki, A., Haataja, S., Loimaranta, V., Pulliainen, A.T., Nilsson, U.J., and Finne, J. (2011) Identification of a novel streptococcal adhesin P (SadP) protein recognizing galactosyl-α1-4-galactose-containing glycoconjugates: convergent evolution of bacterial pathogens to binding of the same host receptor. Journal of Biological Chemistry286:38854-38864.


Pulliainen, A.T., and Dehio, C. (2009) Bartonella henselae: Subversion of vascular endothelial cell functions by translocated bacterial effector proteins. International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 41:507-510. 


Pulliainen, A.T., Enninga, J., Fernandez-Arenas, E., and Griffiths, G. (2007) Fighting infectious diseases with technology and knowledge-transfer. EMBO Reports 8: 117-120. 


Pulliainen, A.T., Kauko, A., Haataja, S., Papageorgiou, A.C., and Finne, J. (2005) Dps/Dpr ferritin-like protein: insights into the mechanism of iron incorporation and evidence for a central role in cellular iron homeostasis in Streptococcus suis. Molecular Microbiology57: 1086-1101. 


Pulliainen, A.T., Haataja, S., Kähkönen, S., & Finne, J. (2003) Molecular basis of H2O2resistance mediated by streptococcal Dpr. Journal of Biological Chemistry278:7996–8005.     


Funding sources:

Academy of Finland

Sigrid Jusélius Foundation

The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters

Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation

Emil Aaltonen Foundation

Turku University Foundation

University of Turku

Turku Doctoral Programme of Molecular Medicine (TuDMM)


Updated: May_2019