Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Yi Xu, PhD

Committee Member

Magnus HÖÖk, PhD

Committee Member

Rick A. Wetsel, PhD

Committee Member

Margie Moczygemba, PhD

Committee Member

Eric L. Brown, PhD


Anthrax outbreaks in the United States and Europe and its potential use as a bioweapon have made Bacillus anthracis an interest of study. Anthrax infections are caused by the entry of B. anthracis spores into the host via the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal tract, cuts or wounds in the skin, and injection. Among these four forms, inhalational anthrax has the highest lethality rate and persistence of spores in the lungs of animals following pulmonary exposure has been noted for decades. However, details or mechanisms of spore persistence were not known. In this study, we investigated spore persistence in a mouse model. The results suggest that B. anthracis spores have special properties that promote persistence in the lung, and that there may be multiple mechanisms contributing to spore persistence. Moreover, recent discoveries from our laboratory suggest that spores evolved a sophisticated mechanism to interact with the host complement system. The complement system is a crucial part of the host defense mechanism against foreign microorganisms. Knowledge of the specific interactions that occur between the complement system and B. anthracis was limited. Studies performed in our laboratory have suggested that spores of B. anthracis can target specific proteins, such as Factor H (fH) of the complement system. Spores of B. anthracis are enclosed by an exosporium, which consists of a basal layer surrounded by a nap of hair-like filaments. The major structural component of the filaments is called Bacillus collagen-like protein of anthracis (BclA), which comprises a central collagen-like region and a globular C-terminal domain. BclA is the first point of contact with the innate system of an infected host. In this study, we investigated the molecular details of BclA-fH interaction with respect to the specific binding mechanism and the functional significance of this interaction in a murine model of anthrax infection. We hypothesized that the recruitment of fH to the spore surface by BclA limits the extent of complement activation and promotes pathogen survival and persistence in the infected host. Findings from this study are significant to understanding how to treat post-exposure prophylaxis and improve our knowledge of spores with the host immune system.


Bacillus anthracis, spores, persistence, lung, inhalational anthrax, complement system, BclA, Factor H