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Gilk Lab

The research lab of Stacey D. Gilk, PhD uses a combination of cell biology, biochemistry and molecular biology to address the role of cholesterol in Coxiella-host cell interactions.

Using a novel cholesterol-free tissue culture system, the laboratory discovered that Coxiella is in fact sensitive to increasing host cholesterol levels, and elevated cholesterol increases the PV pH and kills the bacteria. It’s hypothesized that Coxiella manipulates host cholesterol metabolism and trafficking to support intracellular growth. The Gilk Lab is elucidating both bacterial and host factors involved in cholesterol homeostasis during Coxiella infection, with the goal of identifying new targets for therapeutic intervention.

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Coxiella causes human Q fever, where acute disease generally presents as a debilitating flu-like illness, while chronic Q fever manifests as a life-threatening endocarditis. During infection, Coxiella targets macrophages and survives in a unique, lysosomal-like compartment termed the parasitophorous vacuole (PV).  Formation of the PV is essential for bacterial survival, yet we know little about PV biogenesis and maintenance.

Research Funding

NIAID R21, American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant

Recent Publications

  • 2017
    Samanta D, Mulye M, Clemente T.M., Justis A.V., and S.D. Gilk. 2017. Manipulation of host cholesterol by obligate intracellular bacteria. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, May 5; 7:165. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2017.00165.

    Mulye M, Samanta D, Heinzen RA, and S.D. Gilk. 2017. Elevated cholesterol in the Coxiella burnetii intracellular niche is bacteriolytic. MBio. Feb 28;8(1). doi: 10.1128/mBio.02313-16.

    Justis AV, Hansen B, Beare PA, King KB, Heinzen RA, and S.D. Gilk. 2017. Interactions between the Coxiella burnetii parasitophorous vacuole and the endoplasmic reticulum involve the host protein ORP1L. Cellular Microbiology, Jan;19(1). doi: 10.1111/cmi.12637.

    Winfree, S. and S.D. Gilk. 2017. Quantitative dextran trafficking to the Coxiella burnetii vacuole. Current Protocols in Microbiology, Aug 11; 46: 46:6C.2.1-6C.2.12. doi: 10.1002/cpmc.34.

  • 2014
    Wudiri, G., Pritchard S., Li, H., Liu, J., Aguilar, H., Gilk, S.D., and A. Nicola. 2014. Molecular requirements for sterols in herpes simplex virus entry and infectivity.  Journal of Virology, Dec 1; 88(23): 13918-22.
  • 2013
    Gilk, S.D., Cockrell, D.A., Luterbach, C., Hansen, B., Knodler, L, Steele-Mortimer, O., and R.A. Heinzen. 2013. Bacterial colonization of host cells in the absence of cholesterol.  PLoS Pathogens 9(1): e1003107. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003107

Faculty Research Team

Additional Research Team Members

Other research team members in the Gilk Lab include Anna Justis (PhD Student), Dhritiman Samantha, PhD (Post-doctoral Fellow) and Tatiana Clemente, PhD (Post-doctoral Fellow).