PhD student profiles



Charlotte Ford
MRC Interdisciplinary PhD Programme 'Macromolecular machines of biomedical significance' beginning in Autumn 2012

Project title
Studies of Chlamydia entry into eukaryotic host cells

Principal investigator: Dr Richard Hayward, ISMB, Birkbeck and UCL
Co-investigator: Dr Emmanuel Boucrot, ISMB, UCL

Before starting my PhD I read Biomedical Sciences at UCL, specialising in molecular biology. During this time I was introduced to the endocytosis field and became interested in these different pathways and their regulation. The MRC “Macromolecular Machines” PhD programme gave me the perfect opportunity to pursue these interests from an exciting new angle in a multi-disciplinary institution.
PhD Project

I joined the lab of Dr Richard Hayward who works on the molecular cell biology of bacterial pathogenesis, in particular Chlamydia trachomatis. My co-supervisor Dr Emmanuel Boucrot’s research focuses on exploring the molecular mechanisms of a recently discovered endocytic pathway. Combining these two areas of expertise my PhD project has been to explore the molecular mechanisms of Chlamydia entry. As an obligate intracellular pathogen, Chlamydia absolutely requires the host cell for replication and survival, and yet the molecular mechanisms of entry, an essential step in Chlamydia infectivity, are unclear.

Studies exploring the entry mechanisms of these bacteria are hampered by the inability of Chlamydia to be cultured outside the host cell and the absence of stable gene transfer systems, making the identification chlamydial proteins important for attachment and entry challenging. Using a combination of biochemical, cell biology and imaging approaches I aim to gain a broad understanding of the entry mechanisms Chlamydia use in one defined system, in particular those involved in linking actin polymerisation and membrane deformation. In addition, we will exploit emerging genetic approaches to characterise additional chlamydial factors that are important for the entry process.


figure 1


Figure: Confocal XY sections of cultured mammalian cells after infection with Chlamydia trachomatis (green; indicated with arrows), illustrating actin recruitment during early invasion (red). Scale bar 10μm.




Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University of London
ucl logospacerbirkbeck logo