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Unit 19: Sexually Transmitted Bacterial Pathogens

Dagmar Heuer
Sebastian Banhart

Group members

Jean-Marc Gensch
Henning Krüger
Andrea Martini
Sandra Oelmann
Tanja Pilz
Laura Rose

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise globally. An increasing number of new infections each year, the spreading of antimicrobial resistance and the emergence of multidrug resistant gonococci (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) require to monitor the situation of STI in Germany. Moreover, research on pathogen expansion, treatment failure and new therapeutic approaches needs to be strengthened.

In this context, Unit 19 (Sexually Transmitted Bacterial Pathogens) provides data for molecular surveillance of Neisseria (N.) gonorrhoeae in close collaboration with the gonococcus reference laboratory (Vivantes Klinikum Neukölln) and Unit 34 (HIV/AIDS, STI and Blood-borne Infections), allowing to describe the spreading of strains with antimicrobial resistance in Germany. Moreover, combined microbiological and epidemiological studies will enable us to collect reliable data on recurring infections with Chlamydia (C.) trachomatis to identify risk factors of potential treatment failures for this pathogen.

Beyond that, we analyze virulence and pathogenicity factors of C. trachomatis based on state-of-the-art techniques such as mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and next generation sequencing (NGS), giving us the possibility to develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutic approaches, especially for recurring chlamydial infections.

Thereby, we provide data which – also in combination with epidemiological surveys of Unit 34 – constitute an important foundation for the evidence-based design of public health measures in the fields of STI prevention, diagnostics and therapy in Germany.


  • Molecular surveillance of C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae (development of methods for the molecular typing of C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae)
  • Sub- and fine-typing of C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae using conventional and molecular methods to characterize pathogen populations (description of pathogen alterations)
  • Identification of pathogen features and structures suitable for an improved diagnostics
  • Analysis of resistance determinants
  • Analysis of pathogenicity and epidemic virulence of C. trachomatis (profiles of virulence genes, features defining the course of disease)
  • Collaborations in the framework of laboratory sentinel studies
  • Collaborations in the framework of interlaboratory tests of antimicrobial resistance of N. gonorrhoeae
  • Participation in the analysis of serological T. pallidum detection in collaboration with Department 3

Summary of established methods

  • Method for isolation of chlamydial inclusions by gradient purification and magnet assisted cell sorting (Aeberhard et al., 2015)
  • Proteome analyses (LC-MS/MS) in combination with SILAC (stable isotope labeling of amino acids in cell culture)Aeberhard et al., 2015)
  • CRISPR/Cas-mediated generation of knockout cell lines (Koch-Edelmann et al., 2017)
  • Plaque assay method for high throughput analysis of antichlamydial compounds (Banhart et al., 2014)
  • MLST- and NGS-based genotyping of C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae
  • Microscopy and image analysis (laser scanning confocal microscopy, time lapse microscopy (FRAP, FRET, photoconversion), super-resolution microscopy (sSTORM, STED, SRRF), correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) in collaboration with ZBS 4; quantitative image analysis procedures)

Open positions

Open positions can be found via the employment offers of the Robert Koch Institute. Requests regarding internships, master or diploma theses should be addressed directly to the unit head.

Third-party funded projects

Date: 20.12.2017


  • Koch-Edelmann S, Banhart S, Saied EM, Rose L, Aeberhard L, Laue M, Doellinger J, Arenz C, Heuer D (2017): The cellular ceramide transport protein CERT promotes Chlamydia psittaci infection and controls bacterial sphingolipid uptake.
    Cell. Microbiol. 19 (10): e12752. Epub May 19. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12752. more

  • Aeberhard L, Banhart S, Fischer M, Jehmlich N, Rose L, Koch S, Laue M, Renard BY, Schmidt F, Heuer D (2015): The proteome of the isolated Chlamydia trachomatis containing vacuole reveals a complex trafficking platform enriched for retromer components.
    PLoS Pathog. 11 (6): e1004883. Epub Jun 4. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004883. more

  • Saied EM, Banhart S, Bürkle SE, Heuer D, Arenz C (2015): A series of ceramide analogs modified at the 1-position with potent activity against the intracellular growth of Chlamydia trachomatis.
    Future Med. Chem. 7 (15): 1971–1980. Epub Oct 23. doi: 10.4155/fmc.15.126. more

  • Madela K, Banhart S, Zimmermann A, Piesker J, Bannert N, Laue M (2014): A simple procedure to analyze positions of interest in infectious cell cultures by correlative light and electron microscopy.
    Methods Cell Biol. 124: 93–110. Epub Oct 3. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801075-4.00005-7. more

  • Knittler MR, Berndt A, Böcker S, Dutow P, Hänel F, Heuer D, Kägebein D, Klos A, Koch S et al. (2014): Chlamydia psittaci: New insights into genomic diversity, clinical pathology, host–pathogen interaction and anti-bacterial immunity.
    Int. J. Med. Microbiol. 304 (7): 877–893. Epub Jun 28. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2014.06.010. more

  • Häcker G, Ojcius DM, Heuer D (2014): Is the hoopla about CPAF justified?.
    Pathog. Dis. 72: 1-2. Epub Aug 11. doi: 10.1111/2049-632X.12211. more

  • Grützke J, Rindte K, Goosmann C, Silvie O, Rauch C, Heuer D et al. (2014): The spatiotemporal dynamics and membranous features of the Plasmodium liver stage tubovesicular network.
    Traffic 15 (4): 362-382. Epub Jan 15. doi: 10.1111/tra.12151. more

  • Banhart S, Saied EM, Martini A, Koch S, Aeberhard L, Madela K, Arenz C, Heuer D (2014): Improved plaque assay identifies a novel anti-Chlamydia ceramide derivative with altered intracellular localization.
    Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 58 (9): 5537-5546. Epub Jul 7. doi: 10.1128/AAC.03457-14. more

  • Heymann J, Lipinski AR, Bauer B, Meyer TF, Heuer D (2013): Chlamydia trachomatis infection prevents front-rear polarity of migrating HeLa cells.
    Cell. Microbiol. 15 (7): 1059-1069. Epub Jan 28. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12114. more

  • Bhabak KP, Hauser A, Redmer S, Banhart S, Heuer D, Arenz C (2013): Development of a novel FRET probe for the real-time determination of ceramidase activity.
    Chembiochem. 14 (9): 1049-1052. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201300207. Epub May 31. more

  • Christian JG, Heymann J, Paschen SA, Vier J, Schauenburg L, Rupp J, Meyer TF, Häcker G, Heuer D (2011): Targeting of a chlamydial protease impedes intracellular bacterial growth.
    PLoS Pathog. 7 (9): e1002283. Epub Sep 29. more

  • Mehlitz A, Banhart S, Mäurer AP, Kaushansky A, Gordus AG, Zielecki J, Macbeath G, Meyer TF (2010): Tarp regulates early Chlamydia-induced host cell survival through interactions with the human adaptor protein SHC1.
    J. Cell Biol. 190 (1): 143–157. doi: 10.1083/jcb.200909095. more

  • Karlas A, Machuy N, Shin Y, Pleissner KP, Artarini A, Heuer D, Becker D, Khalil H, Ogilvie LA, Hess S, Mäurer AP, Müller E, Wolff T, Rudel T, Meyer TF (2010): Genome-wide RNAi screen identifies human host factors crucial for influenza virus replication.
    Nature 463 (7282): 818-822. Epub Jan 17. more

  • Rejman Lipinski A, Heymann J, Meissner C, Karlas A, Brinkmann V, Meyer TF, Heuer D (2009): Rab6 and Rab11 regulate Chlamydia trachomatis development and golgin-84-dependent Golgi fragmentation.
    PLoS Pathog. 5 (10): e1000615. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000615. more

  • Heuer D , Rejman Lipinski A, Machuy N, Karlas A, Wehrens A, Siedler F, Brinkmann V, Meyer TF (2009): Chlamydia causes fragmentation of the Golgi compartment to ensure reproduction.
    Nature 457: 731-735.

  • Mehlitz A, Banhart S, Hess S, Selbach M, Meyer TF (2008): Complex kinase requirements for Chlamydia trachomatis Tarp phosphorylation.
    FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 289: 233-240.

  • Heuer D, Kneip C, Maurer AP, Meyer TF (2007): Tackling the intractable - approaching the genetics of Chlamydiales.
    Int. J. Med. Microbiol. 297: 569-576.

  • Kirchner M, Heuer D, Meyer TF (2005): CD46-independent binding of neisserial type IV pili and the major pilus adhesin, PilC, to human epithelial cells.
    Infect. Immun. 73: 3072-3082.

  • Heuer D, Brinkmann V, Meyer TF, Szczepek AJ (2003): Expression and translocation of chlamydial protease during acute and persistent infection of the epithelial HEp-2 cells with Chlamydophila (Chlamydia) pneumoniae.
    Cell. Microbiol. 5: 315-322.

  • Wagner R, Heuer D, Wolff T, Herwig A, Klenk HD (2002): N-Glycans attached to the stem domain of haemagglutinin efficiently regulate influenza A virus replication.
    J. Gen. Virol 83: 601-609 published online 27. November 2001. more

  • Klenk HD, Wagner R, Heuer D, Wolff T (2002): Importance of hemagglutinin glycosylation for the biological functions of influenza virus.
    Virus Res. 82: 73-75.