Bacterium with grabber arms stops intruders

Oct 16, 2009

Bacteria in drinks such as Vifit stop pathogens by using grabber-like arms to cling onto intestinal walls. This discovery is made by a group of Finnish, Belgium and Dutch researchers, under the coordination of Prof. Willem de Vos of the Laboratory of Microbiology (Wageningen University, The Netherlands). The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences late last week.

The Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) bacterium, often found in bacteria drinks such as Vifit, has gained a reputation worldwide for its positive health effects. That LGG makes the intestinal wall less penetrable for intruders is a fact which researchers have known for some time. 'LGG has an impeccable character', says de Vos. 'Its health effects have been proven again and again; we just didn't know how it works.'

It appears that LGG has grabber-like arms called 'pili' with a binding protein at their bases which enables them to adhere to the intestinal mucus lining. In so doing, the bacterium protects the and reinforces the barrier function of the intestine. Other bacteria strains or mutants without pili or binding protein are present in the intestine for much shorter periods.

'By binding to the intestinal mucus membrane, LGG remains longer - and therefore is longer active - in the intestine', explains de Vos. 'We think that LGG competes with pathogens which also adhere to the mucus membrane. The pathogens are defeated when there are sufficient LGG bacteria in the intestine: competitive exclusion.'

Now that the mechanism of the health effects of LGG is known, it seems logical to search for an LGG-variant which can stay in the intestine even longer.

'We could work on an LGG bacterium with more of that , which enables it to be longer active in the intestine', says de Vos. 'That can be done with genetic modification, but traditional selection methods can also be used to pick out with this protein.'

Provided by Wageningen University

Explore further: Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

4 minutes ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

Stopping Candida in its tracks

12 hours ago

Scientists are one step closer to understanding how a normally harmless fungus changes to become a deadly infectious agent.

New technique maps elusive chemical markers on proteins

Jul 02, 2015

Unveiling how the 20,000 or so proteins in the human body work—and malfunction—is the key to understanding much of health and disease. Now, Salk researchers developed a new technique that allows scientists ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.