Jean Celli, Ph.D.


Training & Education

Dr. Celli obtained his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the Université Pierre & Marie Curie, Paris 6, France in 1997, studying genetic mobile elements that transfer antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria. His postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. B. Brett Finlay at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, focused on how the food-borne pathogen Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) disarms immune phagocytes. Dr Celli obtained an INSERM Research scientist position in 2001 in the group of Dr. Jean-Pierre Gorvel at the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, France, where his research focused on characterizing the intracellular cycle of the Brucellosis-causing bacterium Brucella abortus. He obtained in 2004 an NIH investigator position at the NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, where he further developed cellular and molecular studies of bacterial pathogen interactions with phagocytes. Dr. Celli was recruited to the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University in 2013 to further pursue his research on the cell biology of zoonotic bacterial infections. He joined the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 2023.

Research Interests

Most pathogenic microbes, from viruses to bacteria to protozoan parasites, undergo a lifecycle inside cells of their host, exploiting cellular functions to their advantage and ultimately causing infectious diseases. The Celli lab is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms used by intracellular vacuolar bacteria to exploit cellular functions and generate niches of survival and proliferation. We use Brucella abortus as a model vacuolar pathogen, as it modulates various intracellular pathways and functions, such as endocytic and exocytic transport, secretory functions and autophagy, to build a niche of replication and proliferate in the host. Using a multidisciplinary combination of genetic, cell biology and biochemistry approaches, we currently focus on characterizing the mode of action and role of various “effector” proteins the bacterium delivers into host cells during infection that remodel specific cellular functions involved in bacterial vacuole biogenesis, intracellular growth and egress from infected cells.

Confocal microscope image of a Brucella abortus-infected HeLa cell showing extensive intracellular bacterial replication and formation of egress vacuoles.

Confocal microscope image of a Brucella abortus-infected HeLa cell showing extensive intracellular bacterial replication (bacteria appear in red) and formation of egress vacuoles (green vesicles).”


Borghesan E, Smith EP, Myeni S, Binder K, Knodler LA, Celli J. A Brucella effector modulates the Arf6-Rab8a GTPase cascade to promote intravacuolar replication. EMBO J. 2021 Oct 1;40(19):e107664. doi: 10.15252/embj.2021107664. Epub 2021 Aug 23. PMID: 34423453; PMCID: PMC8488576.

Celli J. The Intracellular Life Cycle of Brucella spp. Microbiol Spectr. 2019 Mar;7(2):10.1128/microbiolspec.BAI-0006-2019. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.BAI-0006-2019. PMID: 30848234; PMCID: PMC6448592.

Ledvina HE, Kelly KA, Eshraghi A, Plemel RL, Peterson SB, Lee B, Steele S, Adler M, Kawula TH, Merz AJ, Skerrett SJ, Celli J, Mougous JD. A Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase Effector Alters Phagosomal Maturation to Promote Intracellular Growth of Francisella. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Aug 8;24(2):285-295.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.07.003. Epub 2018 Jul 26. PMID: 30057173; PMCID: PMC6394229.

Miller CN, Smith EP, Cundiff JA, Knodler LA, Bailey Blackburn J, Lupashin V, Celli J. A Brucella Type IV Effector Targets the COG Tethering Complex to Remodel Host Secretory Traffic and Promote Intracellular Replication. Cell Host Microbe. 2017 Sep 13;22(3):317-329.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2017.07.017. Epub 2017 Aug 24. PMID: 28844886; PMCID: PMC5599354.

Smith EP, Miller CN, Child R, Cundiff JA, Celli J. Postreplication Roles of the Brucella VirB Type IV Secretion System Uncovered via Conditional Expression of the VirB11 ATPase. mBio. 2016 Nov 29;7(6):e01730-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01730-16. PMID: 27899503; PMCID: PMC5137499.

All Celli Articles

Headshot of Professor Jean Celli in black sweater, glasses, smiling

Contact Information

Office: 304B Stafford

Lab: 304 Stafford Hall

Office phone: 802-656-0727

Lab phone: 802-656-8587