The Cluster of Excellence “Controlling Microbes to Fight Infections” (CMFI) in the Interfaculty
Institute of Microbiology & Infection Medicine (IMIT) at the University of Tübingen is
looking to fill one PhD position (E13 TV-L, 65%) as part of Junior Group Leader Dr. Effie Bastounis’
research group. The earliest starting date for this position will be on 01.02.2022. The
position is funded for a period of 3 years at least. The available position focuses on exploring
the role of intra- and extra-cellular physical forces in driving intracellular bacterial spread
through infected epithelia.
During infection with the food-borne intracellular bacterial pathogen L. monocytogenes, large
infected domains in epithelial cell monolayers are forced to extrude to form 3D mounds due
to the collective and cooperative onslaught triggered by their uninfected neighbors. This mechanical
competition between uninfected and bacterially-infected cells is driven by innate immunity
signals and appears to limit pathogen dissemination through the epithelium (Bastounis
et al, Developmental Cell, 2021). The project seeks to investigate how signaling and cytoskeletal dynamics
correlate with changes in host cell mechanics during intracellular bacterial spread through
epithelial monolayers. We also want to understand the contribution of extracellular mechanical
cues (extracellular matrix stiffness) in promoting or obstructing this biomechanical battle
in favor of the host.
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