Beginning to Understand the Role of the Type IV Secretion System Effector Proteins in Coxiella burnetii Pathogenesis

  • Anja LührmannEmail author
  • Hayley J. NewtonEmail author
  • Matteo BonazziEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 413)


Coxiella burnetii is the etiological agent of the zoonotic disease Q fever, which manifests in severe outbreaks and is associated with important health and economic burden. Moreover, C. burnetii belongs to the list of class B bioterrorism organisms, as it is an airborne and highly infective pathogen with remarkable resistance to environmental stresses. Detailed study of the host–pathogen interaction during C. burnetii infection has been hampered due to the obligate intracellular nature of this pathogen. However, the development of an axenic culture medium, together with the implementation of bioinformatics tools and high-content screening approaches, have significantly progressed C. burnetii research in the last decade. This has facilitated identification of the Dot/Icm type IV secretion system (T4SS) as an essential virulence factor. T4SS is used to deliver an arsenal of effector proteins into the cytoplasm of the host cell. These effectors mediate the survival of the host cell and the development of very large replicative compartments called Coxiella-containing vacuoles (CCVs). Biogenesis of the CCV relies on T4SS-dependent re-routing of numerous intracellular trafficking pathways to deliver membranes and nutrients that are essential for bacterial replication. This review aims to illustrate the key milestones that have contributed to ascribe C. burnetii as a model organism for the study of host/pathogen interactions as well as presenting an up-to-date description of our knowledge of the cell biology of C. burnetii infections.


Coxiella burnetii Phagosome maturation Autophagy Cell death System biology In vivo models 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mikrobiologisches Institut—Klinische Mikrobiologie, Immunologie und HygieneUniversitätsklinikum Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyUniversity of Melbourne at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and ImmunityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Institut de Recherche En Infectiologie de Montpellier (IRIM), CNRSUMR9004, Université de MontpellierMontpellierFrance

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