Scott J. Hultgren, PhD
Helen L Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology
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Washington University in St. Louis (WU)
Major interests have been in elucidating basic mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. His work as utilized a unique blend of a powerful genetic system with x-ray crystallography, protein chemistry, high resolution electron microscopy, immunology and cell biology to study the molecular details of host-pathogen interactions that occur during urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by E. coli. He has become a world’s authority in issues relating to the structure and function of adhesive fibers called pili that play critical and unexpected roles in host-pathogen interactions. Studying UTIs, he found that bacterial entry into epithelial cells of the bladder provides a safe haven for bacterial persistence by activating the formation of intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs). Elucidation of the IBC program is changing the way UTIs are evaluated and treated and is re-shaping models of bacterial infections in general. His studies are teaching us fundamental aspects of bladder physiology that have implications for normal epithelial renewal and bladder cancer. He also is investigating amyloid-like fibers, called curli, produced by E. coli. This work has implications for the pathology of Alzheimer’s and other amyloid diseases. Work in his lab is spawning new technologies to design novel vaccines and anti-microbial therapeutics that will block the ability of bacteria to adhere to host tissues and prevent their ability to establish infections.