Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies

Dr. Arnaud Kengmo Tchoupa (Microbiology/Medicine), Warwick Medical School, UK

Probing Bubbles: Extracellular Vesicles at the Skin-Bacteria Interface

All living cells can release extracellular vesicles (EVs). They are involved in waste disposal, but also intercellular communication. Microbes smartly hijack this communication channel to persist within their human host. Intriguingly, human cells often shed EVs that act as decoys against pathogens. The decoy function of EVs is also exploited by bacteria to resist antibiotics as well innate defences such as antimicrobial peptides and fatty acids. We observed that bacteria, in the presence of skin-derived fatty acids, release EVs with pro-inflammatory properties that may worsen skin disorders. A better understanding of EV biogenesis and functions in pathogenic bacteria holds promises for the development of alternative anti-infective strategies aiming at preventing infection.


Arnaud Kengmo Tchoupa studied Animal Biology at the University of Yaounde I (Cameroon). For his master’s thesis, however, he secured a scholarship to be trained in Molecular Bacteriology. Molecular Biology techniques learnt there enabled him to earn a living in viral discovery. In 2011, he left Cameroon for Germany thanks to a DAAD-funded PhD scholarship. During his PhD studies in Konstanz, he became very much interested in the crosstalk between bacteria and their human host. He investigated this further at the Warwick Medical School (UK) during his first postdoctoral training. Supported by an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship, he moved to the Infection Biology Department of the University of Tübingen (Germany) just over a year ago. Here, Dr Kengmo investigates how a major human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, responds to host-specific cues, which include antimicrobial fatty acids.