George Chaconas

Professor

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Joint appointment

Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases

Genomics Proteomics and Bioinformatics

Molecular Biology and Disease


Contact information

Phone

Office: (403) 210-9692

Web presence

Chaconas Lab

Location


Research and teaching

Research Activities

Lyme borreliosis (Lyme disease) is the most common vector transmitted disease in the northern hemisphere. It is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and other Borrelia species. The disease is typically transmitted from infected mice to humans by a bite from an infected tick. If not properly diagnosed and treated, Lyme disease can be severely debilitating and may result in arthritis, neurological symptoms, heart abnormalities and a variety of other problems. Global warming is promoting the expansion of areas where infected ticks and Lyme borreliosis is found.  

Borrelia burgdorferi is a fascinating organism with a variety of intriguing features. Our studies focus on several aspects of the biology of Borrelia burgdorferi:

1) Antigenic variation – By constantly changing the sequence of a surface-bound lipoprotein, VlsE, B. burgdorferi can stay one step of the host immune system and outrun the acquired immune response. This escape in immune-surveillance results in persistent infection of the host. The antigenic variation process is driven by gene conversion events at the vlsE locus, molecular details governing antigenic variation remain unknown and are under investigation in the lab.

2) B. burgdorferi dissemination – Lyme spirochetes can enter the host vasculature and ride for free throughout the body, exiting at diverse locations to cause a variety of problems. The process of dissemination is complex and poorly understood. Our intravital microscopic analysis has revealed important new information and is the first high resolution imaging of spirochetes at work in a living mammalian host.     

We use a wide variety of methodologies to study the above problems, including genomics, proteomics, molecular biology, genetics, next generation sequencing, nucleic acid biochemistry, protein biochemistry, structural biology and intravital microscopy. 

 

Research Areas: 

Molecular Biology and Disease

Genomics Proteomics and Bioinformatics

Research Personnel: 

  • Genevieve Chaconas, Laboratory Manager
  • Xi (Tracy) Tan, Postdoctoral Associate
  • Daiana Alvarez Olmedo, Postdoctoral Associate
  • Shiva Abolhosseini, Graduate Student
  • Donna Allan, Administrative Assistant

Publications

PubMed