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Jack C. Leo

Senior Lecturer

Department of Biosciences

Staff Group(s)
Academic Division Bioscience


I am a member of the Antimicrobial Resistance, Omics & Microbiota group at NTU. I am the course leader for the MSc and MRes Molecular Microbiology courses. I am also module leader for BIOL40472: Medical Microbiology, and I teach in modules BIOL33211: Toxicology, BIOL33511: Environmental Forensic Assessment, BIOL45231: Molecular Microbiology, BIOL22371: Applied Microbiology, BIOL10321: Introduction to Microbiology, and BIOL14406: Living Systems.

Career overview

I attained my PhD from the University of Helsinki in 2009. I then moved to Germany for a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tuebingen, where I spent three years. Following this, I did a second postdoc at the University of Oslo, Norway, before becoming a group leader there. I joined NTU in June 2019.

Research areas

I study bacterial pathogenesis, focusing on autotransporters of Gram-negative bacteria. These proteins are self-contained secretion systems and surface molecules that mediate a number of virulence functions. The proteins are found widely in Gram-negative bacteria, and I have studied a variety of autotransporters from organisms such as Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Yersinia enterocolitica. My work characterises both the functions of autotransporters as well as their secretion mechanism. In addition, as surface-exposed molecules and virulence factors, autotransporters are potential vaccine and drug targets.

Supervised PhD students:

Thomas Trunk (2016-2020, University of Oslo): Characterization and comparative analyses of type Vd-secreted phospholipases expressed in pathogenic bacteria. Defended on 18/6/2020.

External activity

I am a member of the editorial board for Biology (MDPI), PeerJ, and Scientific Reports, and I am a review editor for Frontiers in Microbiology. I also regularly review for journals such as FEMS Microbiology Letters, Toxins (MDPI), and Microbiology. For recent peer review activity, visit my Publons page.

I am a member of the Society for Applied Microbiology and the Microbiology Society.

Recent Conference Attendance:

ViBrANT 2021 Conference (online), 15.-16.7.2021. Poster presentation: Recent insights into the structure-function relationship of the inverse autotransporter intimin.

World Microbe Forum (joint AMS and FEMS conference, online), 20.-24.6.2021. Oral presentation: Recent insights into the structure-function relationship of the inverse autotransporter intimin.

Microbiology Society annual conference 2021 (online), 26.-30.4.2021. Poster presentation: Recent insights into the structure-function relationship of the inverse autotransporter intimin. Co-chair for a session on Microbial Physiology.

6th Midlands Molecular Microbiology Meeting (M4), Nottingham, UK, Poster presentation: Comparison of enzymatic activity and oligomer formation in type Vd-secreted phospholipases. Session co-chair.

8th FEMS Meeting, Glasgow, UK, 7.-11.2019. Oral presentation: Comparison of enzymatic activity and oligomer formation in type Vd-secreted phospholipases.

55th NBS Contact Meeting, Røros, Norway, 24.-27.1.2019. Oral presentation: Using the SpyCatcher-SpyTag technology for topology mapping of outer membrane proteins in Gram-negative bacteria.

Bacterial Protein Export 2018, Rega Institute, KU Leuven, Belgium, 30.9.-3.10.2018. Chairing a session on Sec secretome, biogenesis and protein folding (1.10.). Poster: Inverse auto transport: the mechanism of type Ve secretion.

16th Finnish Microbial Pathogenesis Days, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland, 29.-30.8.2018. Oral presentation: Co-aggregation properties of trimeric autotransporter adhesins.

Gordon Research Conference: Bacterial Cell Surfaces, Mount Snow Resort, Vermont, USA, 24.-29.6.2018. Poster: Co-aggregation properties of trimeric autotransporter adhesins.

Recent Outreach Activities:

University of Oslo Open Day (Åpen dag), University of Oslo, Norway, 7.3.2019. Popular science presentation: Plastic-eating bacteria.

Sponsors and collaborators

I have a wide collaboration network with colleagues worldwide. Some of my recent collaboration partners are mentioned below:

Prof Katsutoshi Hori (University of Nagoya, Japan): atomic force measurements on bacterial adhesins.

Prof J. Preben Morth (Technical University of Denmark): structure and biophysics of bacterial adhesins.

Prof Dirk Linke (University of Oslo, Norway): adhesins from bacterial fish pathogens.

Dr Monika S. Schütz (University Clinics Tübingen, Germany): adhesins from human enteropathogens.

Prof Daniel J. Slade (Virginia Polytechnic and State University, USA): phospholipase autotransporters.

Research Funding:

2016 – 2019 Research Council of Norway Young Investigator Grant (“Type Vd secretion: a virulence factor of Pseudomonas aeruginosa?”, 7 000 000 NOK/ 3 years; funding for own position, a PhD student and consumables).

2014 - 2017 VISTA Postdoctoral Fellowship (“Formation mechanism of biological nanoparticles”, personal salary and 150 000 NOK/a research expenses)

2011 - 2013 FEMS Advanced Fellowship (“Bacterial Ig-like domain-containing adhesins”, personal fellowship, €25 000)


Recent publications:

  1. Hermansen S, Linke D, Leo JC (2021): Transmembrane b-barrel proteins of bacteria: from structure to function. Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol.
  2. Rooke JL, Icke C, Wells TJ, Rossiter AE, Browning DF, Morris FC, Leo JC, Schütz MS, Autenrieth IB, Cunningham AF, Linke D, Henderson IR (2021): BamA and BamD are essential for the secretion of trimeric autotransporter adhesins. Front Microbiol., 12:243.
  3. Weikum J, Kulakova A, Tesei G, Yoshimoto S, Jægerum LV, Schütz M, Hori K, Skepö M, Harris P, Leo JC, Morth JP (2020): The extracellular juncture domains in the intimin passenger adopt a constitutively extended conformation inducing restraints to its sphere of action. Sci Rep., 10(1): 21249.
  4. Khalil HS, Øgaard J, Leo JC (2020): Coaggregation properties of trimeric autotransporter adhesins. Microbiolyopen, 9(10): e1109. 
  5. Whelan R, McVicker G, Leo JC (2020): Staying out or going in? The interplay of type 3 and type 5 secretion systems in adhesion and invasion of enterobacterial pathogens. Int J Mol Sci., 21(11): 4102.
  6. Wrobel A, Saragliadis A, Pérez-Ortega J, Sittman C, Göttig S, Liskiewicz K, Spence MH, Schneider K, Leo JC, Arenas J, Linke D (2020): The inverse autotransporters of Yersinia ruckeri, YrInv and YrIlm, contribute to biofilm formation and virulence. Environ Microbiol., 22(7): 2939-55.
  7. ElTahir Y, Al-Araimi A, Nair, RR, Autio, K, Tu H, Leo JC, Al-Marzooqi W, Johnson EH (2019): Binding of Brucella protein, Bp26, to select extracellular matrix molecules. BMC Mol Cell Biol., 20: 55.
  8. Trunk T, Casasanta MA, Yoo CC, Slade DJ, Leo JC (2019): Comparison of type 5d autotransporter phospholipase activities demonstrates a correlation between high activity and intracellular pathogenic lifestyle. Biochem J.,476(18): 2657-76.
  9. Wrobel A, Leo JC, Linke D (2019): Overcoming fish defences: the virulence factors of Yersinia ruckeri. Genes 10(9): 700.
  10. Meuskens I, Saragliadis A, Leo JC, Linke D (2019): Type V secretion systems: An overview of passenger domain functions. Front Microbiol., 10: 1163.
  11. Hatlem D, Trunk T, Linke D, Leo JC (2019): Catching a SPY: using the SpyCatcher-SpyTag and related systems for labelling and localizing bacterial proteins. Int J Mol Sci., 20(9): 2129.
  12. Chauhan N, Hatlem D, Orwyck-Rydmark M, Schneider K, Floetenmeyer M, van Rossum B, Leo JC, Linke D (2019). Insights into the autotransport process of a trimeric autotransporter, Yersinia adhesin A (YadA). Mol Microbiol., 111(3): 844-62.
  13. Klein K, Sonnabend M, Frank L, Leibiger K, Franz-Wachterl M, Macek  B, Trunk T, Leo JC, Autenrieth IB, Schütz M, Bohn E (2019). Deprivation of the periplasmic chaperone SurA reduces virulence and restores antibiotic susceptibility of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Front Microbiol., 10:100.

See all of Jack Leo's publications...