Francesco Renzi

Envelope biogenesis in Bacteroidetes

Unraveling the molecular mechanisms that underlie pathogenicity and commensalism in bacteria from the phylum Bacteroidetes

Prof. Francesco Renzi PhD

UNamur, Department of biology, Research Unit in Biology of Microorganisms (URBM)

Member of the Namur Research Pole in Infectiology (NaRePI)

Research portal UNamur  |  ORCID  |  ResearchGate  |  LinkedIn  |

Expertise and research interests

Dr. Francesco Renzi is a Research Associate of the F.R.S.-FNRS with strong expertise in molecular and cellular microbiology.

His research group is devoted to dissecting the mechanisms that underlie pathogenicity and commensalism in bacteria from the phylum Bacteroidetes which includes common members of the intestinal and oral flora of mammals. Some of them are human pathogens, like Bacteroides fragilis, Capnocytophaga canimorsus and Porphyromonas gingivalis. The main model organism studied is Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a commensal of dog’s mouth that causes generalized infections with a high mortality rate in humans that have been bitten, scratched or licked by a dog.

His main research interest is the cell envelope, a dynamic structure essential for bacteria survival and interaction with the host. In particular, his team studies the role of different surface structures such as the lipo and capsular polysaccharides and surface-exposed lipoproteins that are part of multiprotein membrane complexes devoted to nutrient acquisition. Current work focuses at understanding how lipoproteins reach the bacterial surface, a pathway which is crucial for both commensalism and pathogenicity.

End 2019, Francesco Renzi was awarded an Incentive Grant for Scientific Research (MIS) from the FNRS to further expand his studies on the lipoprotein export to the surface of Bacteroidetes.

Group members

Postdoc researchers: Dr. Fabio Giovannercole Italy and Dr. Gwenaëlle Louis

PhD student: Tom De Smet and Mélanie Grégoire

Research projects

  • ONGOING FOODWAL-PEPTIBoost: Development of innovative and sustainable industrializable approaches for the production and characterization of novel Bioactive Peptides to boost the functional quality of foodstuffs. Ongoing PhD thesis by Bryan Renard. Under co-supervision by Prof. Catherine Michaux, Prof. Thierry Arnould and Prof. Francesco Renzi. Supported by Win4excellence programme.
  • ONGOING Flavobacterium johnsoniae as a new cell factory. Ongoing PhD thesis by Mélanie Grégoire.
  • ONGOING Characterization of lipoprotein transport in Bacteroidetes. Ongoing PhD thesis by Tom De Smet. 
  • ONGOING ELITHE: ELIcitor synTHEtic biology. Development of enzymes using synthetic biology for the production of new biological elicitors of plant defenses for agricultural purpose. Funded by the Walloon Region (Wagralim - Greenwin). Consortium: Syngulon, Fytofend, UNamur (Prof. Francesco Renzi and Dr. Gwennaëlle Louis) and ULiège.
  • ONGOING Study of lipoprotein export to the surface of Bacteroidetes. Postdoctoral research by Dr. Fabio Giovannercole. Funded by MIS, F.R.S.-FNRS.
  • Study of lipoprotein export to the surface of Bacteroidetes. Postdoctoral research by Dr. Katsuya Fuchino (Jan 2021 - Jan 2023). Funded by MIS, F.R.S.-FNRS.
  • Lipo-Surf: Expression of industrially relevant proteins at the surface of Bacteroidetes. Proof-of-concept project funded by the Walloon Region.

Selected publications

Renzi F, Hess E, Dol M, Koudad D, Carlier E, Ohlén M, Moore E, Cornelis GR. Capsular serovars of virulent Capnocytophaga canimorsus are shared by the closely related species C. canis and C. cynodegmi. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2018 Jul 4;7(1):124.

Hess E, Renzi F, Karhunen P, Dol M, Lefèvre A, Antikainen J, Carlier E, Hästbacka J, Cornelis GR. Capnocytophaga canimorsus Capsular Serovar and Disease Severity, Helsinki Hospital District, Finland, 2000-2017. Emerg Infect Dis. 2018 Dec;24(12):2195-2201.

Hess E, Renzi F, Koudad D, Dol M, Cornelis GR. Identification of Virulent Capnocytophaga canimorsus Isolates by Capsular Typing. J Clin Microbiol. 2017 Jun;55(6):1902-1914.

Renzi F, Ittig SJ, Sadovskaya I, Hess E, Lauber F, Dol M, Shin H, Mally M, Fiechter C, Sauder U, Chami M, Cornelis GR. Evidence for a LOS and a capsular polysaccharide in Capnocytophaga canimorsus. Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 15;6:38914.

Renzi F, Zähringer U, Chandler CE, Ernst RK, Cornelis GR, Ittig SJ. Modification of the 1-Phosphate Group during Biosynthesis of Capnocytophaga canimorsus Lipid A. Infect Immun. 2015 Dec 7;84(2):550-61.

Renzi F, Manfredi P, Dol M, Fu J, Vincent S, Cornelis GR. Glycan-foraging systems reveal the adaptation of Capnocytophaga canimorsus to the dog mouth. MBio. 2015 Mar 3;6(2):e02507.