Joanne Engel (UCSF)

Joanne Engel (UCSF)

Butler Seminar Series

Event Date/Location

December 11, 2019 -
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Thomas Laboratory 003


  • Joanne Engel


    Dr. Joanne Engel received her B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale in 1976, the 5th graduating class of women.  After taking a “gap” year to work at the NIH, she completed an MD-PhD program at Stanford, where she studied the human actin gene family.  She then completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania followed by a clinical and postdoctoral fellowship in Infectious Disease at UCSF, where she began her studies of Chlamydia.  She was appointed to the faculty at UCSF in 1990, and is currently a Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology.  She has served as the Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease since 2005 and is the founding and current co-director of the Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Defense  Program (recently rebranded as the Integrative Microbiology Program ) program at UCSF.  She is passionate about mentoring and training young investigators, and is active in both the BMS and tetrad graduate programs at UCSF.  She founded and organized the Bay Area Microbial Pathogenesis Meeting for its first 20 years. Her lab focuses on the complex interplay between bacterial pathogens and their human hosts.  Guided by the motto that the “pathogen is the tutor,” she enjoys learning and applying new technology to understanding the pathogenesis of human infections.  Her lab has made many important contributions to understanding how Chlamydia trachomatis alters the cell biology of their host cell as well as discovering and elucidating the role of the type III secretion system in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  She is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and of the American Academy of Microbiology.  She and her spouse have a son who is a senior in college, and in her spare time, she is an avid cyclist. 


Coming in for a landing: bacterial signaling pathways activated upon surface contact

Activating virulence pathways in response to surface contact is an efficient strategy for the survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) during its transition from planktonic to sessile growth, both in the environment and in human infections. We have previously shown that retraction of the type IV pilus (TFP) leads to activation of the Chp chemosensory system.  This in turn activates the membrane-bound adenylate cyclase CyaB, the primary source of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in PA. cAMP binds to the transcriptional activator Vfr to induce transcription of >200 genes, including virulence-associated secretion systems. We have employed multiple approaches to dissect this mechanochemical signaling (MCS) pathway. Our work suggests that the chemoreceptor PilJ functions as an unconventional receptor with multiple direct binding partners. PilJ couples mechanical input (depolymerized pilin monomer) to activation of a complex phosphorelay. In addition, PilJ binds directly to two additional outputs,  PilH and to CyaB, thus coupling phosphorelay to cAMP production and activation of virulence genes. 


Free and open to the university community and the public.


Zemer Gitai, Department of Molecular Biology