Manipulation of host cholesterol by obligate intracellular bacteria

Dhritiman Samanta, Minal Mulye, Tatiana M. Clemente, Anna V. Justis, Stacey D. Gilk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Cholesterol is a multifunctional lipid that plays important metabolic and structural roles in the eukaryotic cell. Despite having diverse lifestyles, the obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens Chlamydia, Coxiella, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia all target cholesterol during host cell colonization as a potential source of membrane, as well as a means to manipulate host cell signaling and trafficking. To promote host cell entry, these pathogens utilize cholesterol-rich microdomains known as lipid rafts, which serve as organizational and functional platforms for host signaling pathways involved in phagocytosis. Once a pathogen gains entrance to the intracellular space, it can manipulate host cholesterol trafficking pathways to access nutrient-rich vesicles or acquire membrane components for the bacteria or bacteria-containing vacuole. To acquire cholesterol, these pathogens specifically target host cholesterol metabolism, uptake, efflux, and storage. In this review, we examine the strategies obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens employ to manipulate cholesterol during host cell colonization. Understanding how obligate intracellular pathogens target and use host cholesterol provides critical insight into the host-pathogen relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 5 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaplasma
  • Chlamydia
  • Cholesterol
  • Coxiella
  • Lipid droplet
  • Lipid raft
  • Rickettsia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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