Professor Reto Guler

Division of Immunology & International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology Cape Town component

Professor Reto Guler PhD (Geneva)

Professor, International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology (ICGEB) Cape Town component & Associate Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT

Prof. Reto Guler’s current research work focuses on the identification of host factors and pathways that are subverted by Leishmania major and Mycobacterium tuberculosis to increase its persistence and survival within macrophages with the aim to developing pathogen (Hlaka, Rosslee et al., 2017 and Scott et al., 2017) and host-directed drug therapy for tuberculosis and leishmaniasis (Guler and Brombacher 2015; Parihar, Guler et al. 2019). This includes the identification of statins and host non-coding RNAs as host-directed drug therapy for TB and leishmaniasis and the role of epigenetics in host immunity to TB. Reto Guler is a member of the international FANTOM consortium on genome-wide transcriptome analysis using CAGE transcriptomics (Nature, 2014;507; Science, 2015;347). His research further investigates Minor Groove Binders as novel anti-mycobacterial agents and non-ionic surfactant vesicles as a drug delivery system for tuberculosis. In collaboration, he investigates remodelling of mycobacterial peptidoglycan during cell division and in tuberculosis disease. The international PravaTB consortium has recently received a prestigious 4.9 million Euro award from the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) to conduct a clinical trial investigating the use of statins to prevent chronic lung inflammation and potentially TB relapse. The coordinator of this consortium is Reto Guler (University of Cape Town). Chief principal investigator of the clinical trial is Friedrich Thienemann (University of Zürich), local PI in Cape Town is Sandra Mukasa (University of Cape Town). Other project partners include Robert J. Wilkinson (Imperial College London), Claudia Schacht (LINQ Management GmbH, Germany), Gunar Günther and Emmanuel Nepolo (University of Namibia). He has have shown proof of productivity to actively manage collaborative research programs and foster student development.

KEY EXPERTISE: Immunology, infectious diseases, tuberculosis, listeriosis, leishmaniasis, identification of host-directed drug targets, statins, transcriptomics, non-coding RNA, microRNA, lncRNA


Selected publications:

Tamgue O, Gcanga L, Ozturk M, Whitehead L, Pillay S, Jacobs R, Roy S, Schmeier S, Davids M, Medvedeva Y, Dheda K, Suzuki H, Brombacher F, Guler R. Differential targeting of c-Maf, Bach-1 and Elmo-1 by microRNA-143 and microRNA-365 promotes the intracellular growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in alternatively IL-4/IL-13 activated macrophages. Frontiers in Immunology, in press.

Guler R, Mpotje T, Ozturk M, Nono JK, Parihar SP, Chia JE, Abdel Aziz N, Hlaka L, Kumar S, Roy S, Penn-Nicholson A, Hanekom WA, Zak DE, Scriba TJ, Suzuki H, Brombacher F. Batf2 differentially regulates tissue immunopathology in Type 1 and Type 2 diseases. Mucosal Immunol. 2019 Mar;12(2):390-402.

Parihar SP, Guler R, Brombacher F. Statins: a viable candidate for host-directed therapy against infectious diseases. Nat Rev Immunol. 2019 Feb;19(2):104-117.
Govender M, Hurdayal R, Martinez-Salazar B, Gqada K, Pillay S, Gcanga L, Passelli K, Nieuwenhuizen NE, Tacchini-Cottier F, Guler R*, Brombacher. Deletion of Interleukin-4 Receptor Alpha-Responsive Keratinocytes in BALB/c Mice Does Not Alter Susceptibility to Cutaneous Leishmaniasis. F. Infect Immun. 2018 Nov 20;86(12). *co-corresponding author

Hlaka L, Rosslee MJ, Ozturk M, Kumar S, Parihar SP, Brombacher F, Khalaf AI, Carter KC, Scott FJ, Suckling CJ, Guler R. Evaluation of minor groove binders (MGBs) as novel anti-mycobacterial agents and the effect of using non-ionic surfactant vesicles as a delivery system to improve their efficacy. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2017 Dec 1;72(12):3334-334.

Guler R, Brombacher F. Host-directed drug therapy for tuberculosis. Nature Chemical Biology (2015) Sep 17;11(10):748-751.

Guler R, Roy S, Suzuki H, Brombacher F. Targeting Batf2 for infectious diseases and cancer. Oncotarget (2015) Sep 29;6(29):26575-82.

Guler R, Parihar SP, Savvi S, Logan E, Schwegmann A, Roy S, Nieuwenhuizen NE, Ozturk M, Schmeier S, Suzuki H, Brombacher F. IL-4Rα-dependent alternative activation of macrophages is not decisive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathology and bacterial burden in mice. PLoS One. (2015) Mar 19;10(3):e0121070.

Arner E, Daub CO, Vitting-Seerup K, Andersson R, Lilje B, Drabløs F, Lennartsson A, Rönnerblad M, Hrydziuszko O, Vitezic M, Freeman TC, Alhendi AM, Arner P, Axton R, Baillie JK, Beckhouse A, Bodega B, Briggs J, Brombacher F, Davis M, Detmar M, Ehrlund A, Endoh M, Eslami A, Fagiolini M, Fairbairn L, Faulkner GJ, Ferrai C, Fisher ME, Forrester L, Goldowitz D, Guler R, Ha T, Hara M, Herlyn M, Ikawa T, Kai C, Kawamoto H, Khachigian LM, Klinken SP, Kojima S, Koseki H, Klein S, Mejhert N, Miyaguchi K, Mizuno Y, Morimoto M, Morris KJ, Mummery C, Nakachi Y, Ogishima S, Okada-Hatakeyama M, Okazaki Y, Orlando V, Ovchinnikov D, Passier R, Patrikakis M, Pombo A, Qin XY, Roy S, Sato H, Savvi S, Saxena A, Schwegmann A, Sugiyama D, Swoboda R, Tanaka H, Tomoiu A, Winteringham LN, Wolvetang E, Yanagi-Mizuochi C, Yoneda M, Zabierowski S, Zhang P, Abugessaisa I, Bertin N, Diehl AD, Fukuda S, Furuno M, Harshbarger J, Hasegawa A, Hori F, Ishikawa-Kato S, Ishizu Y, Itoh M, Kawashima T, Kojima M, Kondo N, Lizio M, Meehan TF, Mungall CJ, Murata M, Nishiyori-Sueki H, Sahin S, Nagao-Sato S, Severin J, de Hoon MJ, Kawai J, Kasukawa T, Lassmann T, Suzuki H, Kawaji H, Summers KM, Wells C; FANTOM Consortium, Hume DA, Forrest AR, Sandelin A, Carninci P, Hayashizaki Y. Gene regulation. Transcribed enhancers lead waves of coordinated transcription in transitioning mammalian cells.  Science (2015) Feb 27;347(6225).


Contact details:

ICGEB and Division of Immunology
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
Room S1.31, Wernher & Beit Building South
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
Observatory 7925
South Africa

Tel:  +27 21 406 6033
Fax: +27 86 640 7594

Alternate sites:


Group Members:

Member Position Relationship
Dr Ousman Tamgue Post-Doctoral supervisor
Dr Mumin Ozturk Post-Doctoral supervisor
Lerato Hlaka PhD student supervisor
Nathan Scott Kieswetter PhD student supervisor
Lorna Gcanga PhD student supervisor 
Solima Sabeel PhD student supervisor
Bongani Mataung PhD student supervisor
Shelby Jones PhD student co-supervisor
Shandre Pillay PhD student co-supervisor



PravaTB consortium:

Associate Prof. Friedrich Thienemann, University of Zürich, Switzerland; Prof. Robert Wilkinson, ICL; Dr Claudia Schacht, LINQ Management GmbH, Germany; Dr Gunar Günther, University of Namibia; Dr Emmanuel Nepolo, University of Namibia; Dr Sandra Mukasa, CIDRI-Africa

2017-Present:  “Preventing TB relapse and chronic lung disease: A proof-of-concept, double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of pravastatin to reduce inflammation after TB treatment completion in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected adults measured by FDG-PET/CT”

Prof. Bavesh Kana, University of Witwatersrand

2015-Present: “Remodelling of mycobacterial peptidoglycan during cell division and in tuberculosis disease”

Prof. Thomas Scriba, SATVI, UCT, South Africa

2015-Present: “Predictive biomarkers (Batf2/ PKCdelta) for TB disease progression”

Dr. Nelita Plessis-Burger and Dr. Novel Chegou, SUN

2018-Present: “Microbiome and TB disease progression”

Dr. Mamadou Kaba, UCT

2018-Present: “Microbiome and TB disease progression”

Prof. Jonathan Blackburn, Applied Proteomics and Chemical Biology Group, UCT, South Africa

2015-Present: “Identification of nucleic and cytosolic proteins interacting with long non-coding RNA in classically (IFNγ) and alternatively (IL-4/IL-13) activated macrophages following M. tuberculosis infection by proteomics”

Prof. Keertan Dheda, Lung Infection and Immunity Unit Pulmonology and Clinical Immunology, UCT, South Africa

2014-Present: “Identification of differentially expressed microRNAs and long-non coding RNA in M. tuberculosis-infected human alveolar macrophages and PBMCs”

Dr. Katharine Carter, Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde, UK

2013-2017: "Development of a novel inhalable drug formulation for the treatment of TB"

Prof. Fabienne Tacchini-Cottier, Department of Biochemistry, WHO-IRTC, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2014-2017: "Novel host protective functions against leishmaniasis"

Dr. Sebastian Schmeier, Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

2013-Present: "Identification of host microRNAs as potential drug targets against TB"

Prof. Harukazu Suzuki, RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, Division of Genomic Technologies, Yokohama, Japan

2012-Present: "Host drug-targeting candidates for tuberculosis using transcriptomics"

Dr. Roy Sugata, RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, Division of Genomic Technologies, Yokohama, Japan

2012-Present: "Host drug-targeting candidates for tuberculosis using transcriptomics"

Prof. Vladimir Bajic, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

2012-Present: “Non-coding RNA as drug-targeting candidates for TB using transcriptomics"

Associate Prof. Carsten Daub, Department of Biosciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

2012-Present: "Host drug-targeting candidates for tuberculosis using transcriptomics"

Prof. David Marais, Division of Chemical Pathology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

2011-2014: "Drug targets in the host cholesterol biosynthesis pathway to combat TB"

Prof. Martin Bachmann, University of Bern, Switzerland & Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar

2006-2014: "Drug target identification against tuberculosis using virus-like-particles"