When Epithelia Lose Shape: Metastasizing Cancer and Intestinal Infections with E. Coli

PhD defence, Thursday 9 November, Helene Halkjær Jensen.

2017.11.09 | Trine Berndt Turtiainen Scheelke

Helene Halkjær Jensen

Figure 1: Sideview of epithelial cells with (right) or without (left) infection with EPEC. In infected cells, the separation of the top (red) and bottom (green) proteins is disrupted. EPEC is an E. coli strain and a major cause of childhood death due to diarrhea in developing countries. The figure is from DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179122

Epithelial cells make up the tissue that covers the body surfaces – for example as skin, in the gastointestinal tract and in inner organs. A number of critical diseases may occur in epithelia. Most types of cancer arise in epithelia. Moreover, epithelia are the main target for infections with bacteria and viruses. To improve treatment strategies for cancer and infections it is necessary to understand the cellular changes that occur when the diseases arise and develop. During her PhD studies Helene Halkjær Jensen has identified some of the characteristics of metastasizing cancer. The project also gave a new understanding of the changes in intestinal epithelium during infections with the E. coli strain EPEC, which causes diarrhea. Even though the two types of disease are different, the research project demonstrated how basic regulation of the shape and organization of epithelial cells are affected. The results may be used as a stepping stone for future research in design of improved treatments. Moreover, the results give an important perspective on how basic understanding of cellular functions is necessary for the design of specialized treatments.

The PhD degree was completed at Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Science and Technology, Aarhus University and at Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University under daily supervision of Lene N. Nejsum.

This résumé is prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Thursday 9 November at 13.00
Place: Building 1252, room 204, Eduard Biermann Auditorium, Lakeside Lecture Theatre, Bartholins Allé 3, 8000 Aarhus C
Title of dissertation: Perturbation of epithelial organization: Overexpression of NHE1 and AQP5 in cancer and EPEC infection mechanisms
Contact information: Helene Halkjær Jensen, e-mail: helenehalkjaer@clin.au.dk, tel.: +45 23956970

Members of the assessment committee:

Professor Thomas Bjarnsholt, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Associate Professor Soichiro Yamada, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Davis, USA
Associate Professor Anni Hangaard Andersen (chair), Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
Main supervisor:
Professor Jan J. Enghild, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
Associate Professor Lene N. Nejsum, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University
Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English

The defence is public.
The dissertation is available for reading at the Graduate School of Science and Technology/GSST,
Ny Munkegade 120, building 1520, rooms 128-134, 8000 Aarhus C.

PhD defence
Comments on content: 
Revised 23.11.2017