Cellular Microbiology


This curricular unit will provide competences in the understanding of molecular and cellular aspects of microbial infections, in particular on the interplay between microbial pathogens and eukaryotic host cells. This implies the acquisition of knowledge on mechanisms underlying microbial virulence, and on the methods used to study it, as well as the acquisition, or strengthening, of knowledge on eukaryotic cell biology and on immunology. Upon completion of this curricular unit, the students should be able to: i) know the general mechanisms used by bacterial pathogens to resist host cell defenses; exemplify host cell processes and molecules that are manipulated by bacterial virulence proteins; iii) understand experimental data related to microbe-host cell interactions.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Luís Jaime Gomes Ferreira da Silva Mota


Weekly - 2

Total - 34

Teaching language



- Knowledge of microbiology and of molecular cell biology of prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

- This curricular unit (CU)  is exclusively for students from the "Merstrado em Genética Molecular e Biomedicina". Excepcional cases must be discussed with the lecturer of this CU.


Cellular Microbiology, P. Cossart, P. Boquet, S. Normark, R. Rappuoli (Eds), American Society of Microbiology 2nd edition, 2004.

Bacterial Pathogenesis: a Molecular Approach, B. A. Wilson, A. A. Salyers, D. D. Whitt, and M. E. Winkler, American Society of Microbiology, 3rd edition, 2010.

Molecular Biology of the Cell, B. Alberts, A. Johnson, J. Lewis, M. Raff, K. Roberts, P. Walter, Garland Science, 5th edition, 2008.

Cellular and Molecular Immunology, A. K. Abbas, A. H. Lichtman, S. Pillai, Elsevier, 6th edition, 2007.

Selected review articles covering the topics presented in the lectures (provided by the lecturer).

Teaching method

The curricular unit is organized in lectures, laboratory sessions (that will include problem-solving sessions), and seminars. The theoretical part (the lectures) will be based on text books and recent review articles. In practical classes, the students will work in groups and analyse the secretion of proteins by the bacterial pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica (using genetically attenuated non-pathogenic strains). In the practical classes, in between experimental manipulations, the students will be helped in analysing problems, which will be created based on experimental data sets. In the seminars, the students will present (working in groups) recent research articles based on the theme of the curricular unit.

Evaluation method

The continous evaluation will be divided into:

- 1 written test during the semester, based on the lectures and labs (75% of the final mark; 75%; the classification must be at least 9.5 for approval at the curricular unit).

- Presentation of seminar (15 min, plus up to 5 min discussion, in groups of 3 students) (25% of the final mark; minimal classification of 10 for final approval at the curricular unit)

Conditions for approval at the curricular unit:

- Final mark of at least 9.5.

Other conditions for approval and to be accepted at the final Exam:

- Presence in at least 2/3 of the lab (at least 5 out of 7).

- Presentation of and discussion of the seminar.

- When these conditions are achieved, they will still be valid for the subsequent curricular year.

Calculation of the final mark:

- The final mark will be the weighted average of the evaluation components, as indicated above. For this calculation, the marks of each element of evaluation will be to the first decimal and the final mark will be rounded to nearest integer. 

Final exam:

 - the exam will cover the lectures and labs (75% of the final mark; 75%; the classification must be at least 9.5 for approval at the curricular unit).

Subject matter

Overview of microbial pathogenesis: host defences and counter-measures deployed by the microorganisms with emphasis on type III secretion systems. Actin cytoskeleton and its manipulation by bacterial pathogens: the cytoskeleton; actin filaments; examples of intracellular motility, invasion and anti-phagocytosis by bacterial pathogens. Vesicular transport and its manipulation by bacterial pathogens: proteins and lipids involved in vesicular transport; examples of rupture and release from the phagosome, of subversion of the phagolysosomal pathway and of survival within a phagolysosome. 


Programs where the course is taught: