We explore the molecular mechanisms of the pathogenesis of the obligate human pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The insights gleaned from these studies will facilitate our understanding of how the innate immune system defends against infection, how pathogens exploit mucosal defenses to aid in colonization and transmission, and how the structure-function relationship of pathogen-associated surface proteins modulates the infection process.
We are undertaking a new initiative to examine how DNA is released from the icosahedral capsid to initiate an infection. DNA release or uncoating is being studied beginning with purified DNA-containing capsids and an in vitro uncoating system recently developed in our laboratory. Experiments are carried out to identify the DNA end that emerges first from the capsid and to clarify the nature of heterogeneity observed in the population of DNA-containing capsids. In vitro studies are being complemented with an analysis of DNA uncoating as it occurs in infected cells.