DOI: 10.1093/femspd/ftad034 ISSN: 2049-632X

Epigenetic Changes Induced by Pathogenic Chlamydia Spp.

Richard A Stein, Lily M Thompson
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy


Chlamydia trachomatis, C. pneumoniae, and C. psittaci, the three Chlamydia species known to cause human disease, have been collectively linked to several pathologies, including conjunctivitis, trachoma, respiratory disease, acute and chronic urogenital infections and their complications, and psittacosis. In vitro, animal, and human studies also established additional correlations, such as between C. pneumoniae and atherosclerosis and between C. trachomatis and ovarian cancer. As part of their survival and pathogenesis strategies as obligate intracellular bacteria, Chlamydia spp. modulate all three major types of epigenetic changes, which include DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications, and microRNA-mediated gene silencing. Some of these epigenetic changes may be implicated in key aspects of pathogenesis, such as the ability of the Chlamydia spp. to induce epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, interfere with DNA damage repair, suppress cholesterol efflux from infected macrophages, act as a co-factor in HPV-mediated cervical cancer, prevent apoptosis, and preserve the integrity of mitochondrial networks in infected host cells. A better understanding of the individual and collective contribution of epigenetic changes to pathogenesis will enhance our knowledge about the biology of Chlamydia spp. and facilitate the development of novel therapies and biomarkers.

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