Pathogenic bacteria that target mitochondria


Project Details

The intracellular human pathogen Coxiella burnetii causes a life threatening zoonotic infection termed Q fever. During infection the bacteria reach extremely large numbers by replicating within a lysosome-derived vacuole. Coxiella achieves this by translocating at least 130 proteins, termed effectors, into the host cell via the Dot/Icm type IV secretion system (T4SS).

The biological problem

We have identified several Coxiella effectors that specifically localise to human mitochondria (example shown in Figure 1) and are uncovering the impact Coxiella infection has on mitochondrial function. This work will progress our understanding of Coxiella pathogenesis, reveal the functional significance of targeting mitochondria and potentially lead to novel therapeutic approaches. This work forms the base of a larger goal to understand the role of mitochondria as a signalling platform in innate immunity as well as a target for effectors produced by other bacterial pathogens.

photomicrograph of Coxiella burnetti

Figure 1: A Coxiella effector protein is targeted to the mitochondria in HeLa cells infected with C. burnetii.


Dr Stojanovski embraces a large range of technologies from protein chemistry to molecular cell biology and she is passionate about teaching these methods and the knowledge of her discipline to younger scientists. The described projects use a wide range of experimental approaches, including:

  • mammalian tissue culture
  • bacterial expression systems
  • recombinant protein technologies
  • cellular imaging techniques
  • Blue-native PAGE
  • affinity techniques and proteomics
  • yeast culturing and genetics


Dr Hayley Newton, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Doherty Institute, The University of Melbourne

Research Group

Stojanovski laboratory: Mitochondrial biogenesis in health and disease

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Infection & Immunity, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Unit / Centre

Stojanovski laboratory: Mitochondrial biogenesis in health and disease

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