About Anthony T Maurelli
Anthony T. Maurelli, Ph.D. is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Environmental and Global Health. He received a B.S. in Biology from Villanova University, Villanova, PA in May 1974 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology in June 1983, from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Birmingham, AL under the direction of Dr. Roy Curtiss III. After his Ph.D. work, Dr. Maurelli spent three years as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Chargé de Recherche with Prof. Philippe Sansonetti in the Service des Entérobactéries at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.
In 1986, Dr. Maurelli accepted a position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD. He was promoted to Associate Professor (with tenure) in 1992 and then to Professor in 1999. He held joint appointments as graduate faculty in the Molecular and Cell Biology and Emerging Infectious Diseases Graduate programs. Dr. Maurelli joined the Department of Environmental and Global Health, College of Public Health and Health Professions, and the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI), University of Florida in January 2016. He is also affiliate graduate faculty of the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department of the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Dr. Maurelli is an elected Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Microbiology. He has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Chlamydia Basic Research Society and Mini-reviews Editor for Infection and Immunity. Dr. Maurelli directs an active, NIH-funded basic research program in his laboratory at the EPI in Gainesville . He has had continuous funding from the NIH for over 25 years.
Dr. Maurelli has over 30 years of research experience in the field of molecular genetics of bacterial pathogenesis, specifically in the study of Shigella and Chlamydia. Shigella is the causative agent of bacillary dysentery and globally is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age. Chlamydia is a major cause of sexually transmitted infections worldwide. It also causes pneumonia and ocular infections and is the leading cause of preventable blindness.
Shigella pathogenesis – Among his many contributions in this field, Dr. Maurelli discovered temperature regulation of virulence genes in Shigella, cloned and identified the genes required for invasion of mammalian cells, identified the first genes of what came to be known as the type III secretion system and provided the first evidence for secretion of virulence effectors from Shigella, defined the concept of pathoadaptation by gene loss in the evolution of bacterial pathogens from commensal ancestors (the evolution of “black holes” in Shigella), described the anti-apoptosis phenotype of pathogenic Shigella, and identified emerging Shiga toxin-producing strains of Shigella flexneri with an epidemiological link to Hispaniola. On-going research in the Maurelli Lab focuses on defining how the loss of certain genes in Shigella gives the bacterium a selective advantage within or outside the human host. Another project seeks to understand the evolution and public health consequences of the recently emerging group of non-Shigella dysenteriae Shigella strains that produce Shiga toxin. Epidemiological evidence points to the emergence of these strains from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Future studies aim to identify potential sources and reservoirs of these strains in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since the genes for Shiga toxin are carried by a bacteriophage (viruses that attack bacteria), field studies are also planned to search for these bacteriophages in water sources in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Chlamydia pathogenesis – The Maurelli laboratory has conducted NIH-funded research on this important pathogen since 1998. Some of the significant discoveries made by his research team over this period are the first demonstration of directed allelic exchange in Chlamydia in the laboratory setting and, identification and characterization of transporters for biotin, NAD, and a novel transporter of S-adenosyl methionine. In addition, the Maurelli Lab has made major contributions to our understanding of Chlamydia peptidoglycan (cell wall) synthesis including: the first demonstration of a functional gene in the pathway of peptidoglycan synthesis in Chlamydia; discovery and characterization of an alternative pathway for synthesis of diaminopimelic acid (a unique and critical component of bacterial cell walls); use of metabolic labeling to demonstrate the presence of peptidoglycan in C. trachomatis, and resolution of its chemical structure. These latter discoveries resolved a 50 year old paradox of Chlamydia biology, i.e. the sensitivity of the organism to antibiotics that inhibit peptidoglycan synthesis but the absence of any detectable peptidoglycan. The Maurelli Lab continues to study the pathway for peptidoglycan synthesis and the role it plays in bacterial growth and cell division. Since peptidoglycan fragments are potent ligands for stimulation of innate immune responses, the mechanisms of its turnover and the effects of Chlamydia peptidoglycan fragments on host cell signaling are also being examined. Another project focuses on the study of how Chlamydia acquires essential nutrients such as iron and small peptides from its host.
Public Health – The UF-EPI Haiti Lab 1-Gressier was the first site of a surveillance project to measure the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the adult population in an urban population in Haiti. A satellite UF-EPI lab was also established in the rural mountain community of Baradères for this study. Participants were recruited, consented and tested for four major STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. They also were given a questionnaire on sexual behavior, risk factors, and mobility. Data from these surveys can be used by local stakeholders to develop effective interventions to reduce the incidence of STIs. Another project focuses on studying the evolution and public health consequences of a recently emerging group of Shigella strains that produce a potent toxin, Shiga toxin (see section on Shigella above). These strains have been isolated from travelers returning to the U.S., Canada, and France from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The same strains have also been isolated from Haitian children attending a school near the UF-EPI Haiti lab in Gressier. Future projects will focus on understanding Haitians’ knowledge, attitudes and practices with respect to water, particularly as it relates to infectious diseases. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maurelli Lab, in collaboration with other faculty in EGH, developed methods for detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. Measurement of virus levels in wastewater has been done in municipal water systems and on the University of Florida campus. Additional public health projects in the areas of wastewater-based epidemiology, water quality, and infectious diseases are available for undergraduate and graduate student projects.
- Bacillary dysentery
- Bacterial cell division
- Bacterial cell wall
- Bacterial genetics
- Bacterial pathogenesis
- Bacterial physiology
- Emerging infectious disease
- Evolution of bacterial pathogens
- Global Health
- Infectious disease surveillance
- One Health
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Shiga toxin
- Transport systems in bacteria
- Water security
- wastewater-based epidemiology