Katja Mertens, Ph.D.
Biology Diploma, 2000, University of Bremen, Germany
Dr. rer. nat, 2004, University of Lübeck, Germany
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2004-2009, Texas A&M Health Science Center, USA
My current research interests focus on the molecular mechanisms employed by the obligate intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii for evasion of host defenses. C. burnetii is the etiological agent of acute and chronic Q (query) fever in humans and resides within the acidified environment of a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) with lysosomal characteristics. In this unique biological niche, bacteria are exposed to a wide variety of damaging agents, such as an acidic pH, hydrolytic enzymes, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) released by the host cell as primary defense against invading microorganisms. In order to understand how C. burnetii withstands damage on the cellular level and maintains genomic stability and integrity, our current research projects focus on the functional characterization of ROS detoxifying enzymes and DNA damage repair mechanisms.