Group Posthaus

Horst Posthaus
PD Dr. Horst Posthaus

The focus of our research is the interaction of bacterial pathogens with their natural animal hosts. We are particularly interested in the mechanism of action of bacterial exotoxins on target cells in their natural host species and the translation of basic research findings to the actual situation in affected tissues and whole organisms.

In veterinary medicine, pathogenic clostridia, such as C. botulinum, C. chauvoei, C. perfringens, C. septicum, etc., are the cause of severe and important diseases. The pathogenesis of most of these diseases, especially the toxic principles of the large arsenal of exotoxins produced by these pathogens, is poorly understood. Additionally, comparative aspects of human and animal infections are only rarely investigated. As a genus, clostridia will most likely use common pathogenic mechanisms to induce organ lesions. Research results on one species will most likely be applicable to other species and even different types of clostridia. Therefore, research in this field offers great potential to unravel important mechanisms of host-pathogen interaction and to provide the basis for improved prevention strategies for these important infectious diseases.

Our research group investigates the cellular and molecular effects of Clostridium perfringens beta-toxin on target cells from naturally affected hosts, including humans. Furthermore we aim to translate in vitro research results to the actual disease process occurring in naturally and experimentally infected tissues and whole animals. Recently, we identified endothelial cells as potential primary targets for this toxin and established a cell culture based in vitro model to investigate cellular responses to beta-toxin. Besides this, we investigate the molecular epidemiology of C. perfringens type C strains in Swiss pig herds. Our research group collaborates closely the Porcine Clinic as well as with other institutes at our university and internationally.

Besides our primary research topic we offer support for research groups at our faculty and outside. As part of our COPMATH platform (weblink) we provide large domestic animal pathology support for research groups.

Group Leader


5 key publications

  • Roos, S., Wyder, M., Candi, A., Regenscheit, N., Nathues, C., van Immerseel, F., Posthaus, H. (2015) Binding studies on isolated porcine small intestinal mucosa and in vitro toxicity studies reveal lack of effect of C. perfringens beta-toxin on the porcine intestinal epithelium. Toxins (Basel).7(4):1235-52

  • Autheman, D., Wyder, M., Popoff, M., D'Herde, K., Christen, S., and Posthaus, H. (2013). Clostridium perfringens beta-toxin induces necrostatin-inhibitable, calpain-dependent necrosis in primary porcine endothelial cells. PLoS ONE 8, e64644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064644

  • Schumacher, V.L., Martel, A., Pasmans, F., Van Immerseel, F., and Posthaus, H. (2013). Endothelial binding of beta toxin to small intestinal mucosal endothelial cells in early stages of experimentally induced Clostridium perfringens type C enteritis in pigs. Veterinary pathology 50, 626-629. doi: 10.1155/2012/642145

  • Gurtner, C., Popescu, F., Wyder, M., Sutter, E., Zeeh, F., Frey, J., von Schubert, C., Posthaus, H., 2010, Rapid Cytopathic Effects of C. perfringens Beta-Toxin on Porcine Endothelial Cells. Infect. Immun. 78, 2966-2973

  • Miclard, J., Jäggi, M., Sutter, E., Wyder, M., Grabscheid, B., Posthaus, H., 2009, Clostridium perfringens beta-toxin targets endothelial cells in necrotizing enteritis in piglets. Vet. Microbiol. 12;137(3-4):320-5

For a complete overview of the publications please see at NCBI.