The Chicago Center for Functional Annotation (CCFA)



Brucella abortus Project

Brucella spp. are the causative agents of brucellosis, which is among the most common zooneses globally.  The mechanisms by which Brucella spp.maintain long-term interactions with their mammalian hosts are not well understood.  The CCFA Brucella abortus research project led by Dr. Sean Crosson of the University of Chicago is elucidating the biochemical and regulatory functions of uncharacterized open reading frames (ORFs) and putative small non-coding RNAs that have been implicated in long-term mammalian infection.  This project is directed toward the long-range goal of understanding the molecular mechanism of B. abortus general stress signaling, and the relationship between B. abortus stress physiology and chronic brucellosis.

Yersinia pestis Project

Viewed globally, plague epidemics in human populations occur every year, however pandemics with devastating consequences are often separated by long time intervals.  Current epidemiological studies record about 4,000 human plague cases annually world-wide; morbidity rates oscillate and slowly increase towards the onset of a new pandemic.  Due to its fulminant spread and very high mortality, plague has killed more people worldwide than any other infectious disease.

The CCFA research project on Yersinia pestis is led by Dr. Olaf Schneewind of the University of Chicago, and is defining the function of numerous uncharacterized ORFs and small RNAs involved in plague pathogenesis and replication within the flea vector.


  • Willett J.W., Herrou J., Briegel A., Rotskoff G., and Crosson S. 2015. Structural asymmetry in a conserved signaling system that regulates division, replication and virulence of an intracellular pathogen. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112: E3709-3718.
  • Kim, H.-S. Willett, J.W. Jain-Gupta, N., Fiebig, A. and Crosson, S. 2014. The Brucella abortus virulence regulatorLovhK, is a sensor kinase in the general stress response signaling pathway.  Mol. Microbiol. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12809.
  • Tam, C., Demke, O., Hermanas, T., Mitchell, A., Hendrickx, A.P., and Schneewind, O.  2014.  YfbA, a Yersinia pestis regulator required for colonization and biofilm formation in the gut of cat fleas.  J. Bacteriol.  doi: 10.1128/JB.01187-13.