Host-Pathogen Interactions

Group Leader

Elsa Anes

PhD (1998) in Pharmacy (Microbiology), University of Lisbon
Posdoctoral research at EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany
Associate Professor, Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa

The Research


Microbial pathogens have evolved unique ways to interact with their hosts. It is therefore not surprising that pathogens have evolved a large and diverse array of virulence factors well suited to interfere with or stimulate a variety of host-cell responses in order to invade, survive and replicate within their hosts. The understanding of how pathogens interact with their hosts is providing the basis for the development of novel therapeutic approaches as well as a number of very sophisticated tools for probing basic aspects of cellular physiology and immunology. We take a multidisciplinary approach in our studies involving molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, immunology and cell imaging. As a result, we are beginning to define not only the molecular details of the host pathogen interactions but also potential targets to be manipulated from the host side. Furthermore with the tools available the group offers expertise to assess the anti-microbial activity of new compounds targeting namely Mtb, HIV, Influenza virus or Helicobacter pylori.


Mtb controls cathepsins and their inhibitors, cystatins, at the level of gene expression in infected macrophages. The pathogen induced an overall downregulation of cathepsins gene expression (green) when compared with the macrophage infection of the non-pathogen M. smegmatis. A) Green GFP Mtb within macrophages (red: actin; blue: nucleus). B) Heatmap of qRT-PCR quantification of mRNA obtained from macrophages 24 h PI. C) M. smegmatis containing phagosomes colocalization with cathepsin H, a lysosomal enzyme upregulated during this mycobacteria infection (B).


Ongoing Projects

Source: FCT Investigator 2015 (IF/00414/2015)
Title: “Dissecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex cell wall structure and modifications: contribution to host immune recognition and drug resistance.”
PI: Maria João Catalão
Period: 2017-2021

Source: Gilead GÉNESE Program 2016 edition.
Title: Role of the ectosomes in the dissemination of HIV infection in CNS and their contribution to HIV-associated dementia.
PI: J. M. Azevedo-Pereira
Period: 2017-2018

Source: Gilead GÉNESE Program 2016 edition.
Title: HIV-TRANFERSOME: fusion inhibitor incorporated in transfersomes for transdermal delivery”Source.
PI: Quirina Santos-Costa
Period: 2017-2018

Source: Janssen prize for innovation 2016 edition.
Title: Role of cathepsins in Mycobacterium survival within macrophages.
PI: Elsa Anes
Period: 2017-2018

Recent Most Relevant Publications

Pires D, Marques J, Pombo JP, Carmo N, Bettencourt P, Neyrolles O, Lugo-Villarino G and Anes E. Role of Cathepsins in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Survival in Human Macrophages. Sci Rep.2016. 6:32247.

Vale FF, Nunes A, Oleastro M, Gomes JP, Sampaio DA, Rocha R, Vítor JM, Engstrand L, Pascoe B, Berthenet E, Sheppard SK, Hitchings MD, Mégraud F, Vadivelu J, Lehours P. Genomic structure and insertion sites of Helicobacter pylori prophages from various geographical origins. Sci Rep. 2017.  7:42471.

Santos-Costa Q, Lopes M, Calado M, Azevedo-Pereira J. HIV-2 interaction with cell coreceptors: aminoacids within the V1/V2 region of viral envelope are determinant for CCR8, CCR5  and CCR4 usage. Retrovirology. 2014;11:99.

Vibe CB, Fenaroli F, Pires D, Wilson SR, Bogoeva V, Kalluru R, Speth M, Anes E, Griffiths G and Hildahl J. Thioridazine in PLGA nanoparticles reduces toxicity and improves rifampicin therapy against mycobacterial infection in zebrafish. Nanotoxicology. 2016. 10(6):680-8.

Gíria M, Santos L , Louro J, Rebelo-de-Andrade H. Reverse genetics vaccine seeds for influenza: Proof of concept in the source of PB1 as a determinant factor in virus growth and antigen yield. Virology. 2016; 4;96:21 –27.

Group Members

PhD Students

Master Students

  • Catarina Fialho
  • Vanessa Monteiro


  • Tomás Serra Velez