Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie

Functional Genomics and Systems Microbiology (Schoen lab)

Research in my group focuses on the genetic basis of virulence in so called “commensal” pathogens. These are bacteria that are part of the normal human microbiome but sometimes can cause severe disease in healthy individuals.

Neisseria meningitidis is a particularly prominent example in this respect. On the one hand, this genetically diverse β-proteobacterium is an exclusively human-adapted commensal that is carried in the nasopharynx of about 20% of the healthy population. On the other hand, N. meningitidis is also a ferocious pathogen that can cause life-threatening invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), and “no other infection so quickly slays” (Herrick WW 1919). Due to its high genetic diversity, it is an excellent model species to study how a high genetic diversity translates into diversity at the phenotypic level.

However, classical so-called candidate gene-based approaches have failed so far to identify a virulence gene set in N. meningitidis, and the conundrum of meningococcal virulence challenges general concepts in infection biology such as, e.g., the association between a pathogen and disease (Fredericks and Relman, 1996), the definition and meaning of virulence factors (Falkow, 1988; Casadevall and Pirofski, 2001; Wassenaar and Gaastra, 2001), the relation between transmission and virulence (Lipsitch and Moxon, 1997), the distinction between commensal and pathogenic bacteria (Merrell and Falkow, 2004), or the mode of bacterial virulence evolution (Levin and Bull, 1994; Fraser et al., 2005).

Therefore, our group employs the whole spectrum of up-to-date molecular biological and genomic techniques including comparative whole-genome sequencing as well as RNA-Seq along with metabolic modelling to better understand the genetic basis of meningococcal virulence and in particular the contribution small non-coding RNAs.

Barbara Conrad

Technical assistant

Tel.: +49 931 31-46708

Leonhard Katzowitsch

Denise Müller

PhD student

Tel.: +49 931 31-46708

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. med. Christoph Schoen

Group leader

Tel.: +49 931 31-46162
Mail: christoph.schoen(at)uni-wuerzburg.de

Thanh-Mai Tran

Yuwei Xue

Master student

Mail: yuwei.xue(at)stud-mail.uni-wuerzburg.de

Jiao C, Sharma S, Dugar G, Peeck NL, Bischler T, Wimmer F, Yu Y, Barquist L, Schoen C, Kurzai O, Sharma CM, Beisel CL. Noncanonical crRNAs derived from host transcripts enable multiplexable RNA detection by Cas9. Science. 2021 May 28;372(6545):941-948. doi: 10.1126/science.abe7106. Epub 2021 Apr 27. PMID: 33906967

Bauriedl S, Gerovac M, Heidrich N, Bischler T, Barquist L, Vogel J*, Schoen C*. The minimal meningococcal ProQ protein has an intrinsic capacity for structure-based global RNA recognition. Nat Commun. 2020 Jun 4;11(1):2823. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16650-6. PMID: 32499480

Heidrich N, Hagmann A, Bauriedl S, Vogel J, Schoen C. The CRISPR/Cas system in Neisseria meningitidis affects bacterial adhesion to human nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. RNA Biol. 2019 Apr;16(4):390-396. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2018.1486660. Epub 2018 Jul 30. PMID: 30059276

Heidrich N, Bauriedl S, Barquist L, Li L, Schoen C*, Vogel J*. The primary transcriptome of Neisseria meningitidis and its interaction with the RNA chaperone Hfq. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jun 2;45(10):6147-6167. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx168. PMID: 28334889

Ampattu BJ, Hagmann L, Liang C, Dittrich M, Schlüter A, Blom J, Krol E, Goesmann A, Becker A, Dandekar T, Müller T, Schoen C. Transcriptomic buffering of cryptic genetic variation contributes to meningococcal virulence. BMC Genomics. 2017 Apr 7;18(1):282. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3616-7. PMID: 28388876

Schoen C, Kischkies L, Elias J, Ampattu BJ. Metabolism and virulence in Neisseria meningitidis. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2014 Aug 20;4:114. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2014.00114. PMID: 25191646

Zhang Y, Heidrich N, Ampattu BJ, Gunderson CW, Seifert HS, Schoen C, Vogel J, Sontheimer EJ. Processing-independent CRISPR RNAs limit natural transformation in Neisseria meningitidis. Mol Cell. 2013 May 23;50(4):488-503. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.05.001. PMID: 23706818

Joseph B, Schwarz RF, Linke B, Blom J, Becker A, Claus H, Goesmann A, Frosch M, Müller T, Vogel U, Schoen C. Virulence evolution of the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis by recombination in the core and accessory genome. PLoS One. 2011 Apr 26;6(4):e18441. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018441. PMID: 21541312

Schwarz R, Seibel PN, Rahmann S, Schoen C, Huenerberg M, Müller-Reible C, Dandekar T, Karchin R, Schultz J, Müller T. Detecting species-site dependencies in large multiple sequence alignments. Nucleic Acids Res. 2009 Oct;37(18):5959-68. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp634. Epub 2009 Aug 6. PMID: 19661281

Schoen C, Blom J, Claus H, Schramm-Glück A, Brandt P, Müller T, Goesmann A, Joseph B, Konietzny S, Kurzai O, Schmitt C, Friedrich T, Linke B, Vogel U, Frosch M. Whole-genome comparison of disease and carriage strains provides insights into virulence evolution in Neisseria meningitidis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Mar 4;105(9):3473-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800151105. Epub 2008 Feb 27. PMID: 18305155

Further publications of the research group on Pubmed