Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Baumstark - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Phang-Cheng Tai

Third Advisor

Dr. Zehava Eichenbaum


Bartonella, a group of Gram negative facultative intracellular bacteria, are known to cause diseases, such as Cat Scratch Disease, Trench Fever and Carrion’s Disease, that involve angiogenesis during the infective cycle. B. bacilliformis, the etiological agent of Carrion’s Disease, causes a bi-phasic infection resulting in the formation of blood-filled angiogenic proliferative cutaneous nodules called verruga peruana. The work presented here was undertaken to characterize the mechanism by which these nodules are produced. Previous work in our laboratory suggested that the Bartonella henselae genome contains a homologue to the virB operon, a set of genes coding for a Type IV Secretion System (TFSS) that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of other α-2-proteobacteria. We identified virB operons in two additional Bartonella pathogens, B. quintana and B. clarridgeiae. No corresponding operon sequences were detected in B. bacilliformis DNA, however. This finding suggests that virB gene products are not required for verruga peruana formation. To continue our search for factors involved in B. bacilliformis-induced angiogenesis, we conducted a microarray analysis of differential gene expression in infected and uninfected endothelial cells. The results suggest similarities between later stage (36 hours) B. bacilliformis infection and that of HHV-8, the causative agent of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, particularly in relation to the host immune response. Finally, our research focused on the secreted factors that B. bacilliformis produces during its host infective cycle. Our data suggest that the B. bacilliformis homologue to the molecular chaperone GroEL not only induces angiogenesis in endothelial cells, but also protects endothelial cell tubule from the degradation seen when these cells are in the presence of live B. bacilliformis. In summary, the induction of verruga peruana nodules via B. bacilliformis may be the result of multiple factors over the course of persistent infection. Early infection may cause vascular damage, which induces VEGF and hypoxia factors. As infection persists, bacterial secretion of a unique GroEL may result in continued angiogenesis and the ensuing activation of immune cells, producing a localized environment of continual incomplete angiogenesis in areas of cutaneous infection.

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