Researchers discover molecular machinery for bacterial cell death

Nov 30, 2011

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Vienna have revealed for the first time a stress-induced machinery of protein synthesis that is involved in bringing about cell death in bacteria.

Their work opens a new chapter in the understanding of under stress conditions, which are the conditions bacteria usually are faced with, both in humans and otherwise in nature, and could pave the way for the design of novel, that would help to overcome serious public health problems, the researchers believe.

In the last 50 years, the biological machinery responsible for protein synthesis has been extensively studied, in particular in the gastric bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli). The machinery of protein synthesis operates primarily through ribosomes -- small particle present in large numbers in every living cell whose function is to convert into -- and messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which transfer the genetic information from the genome to the ribosomes and thereby direct the synthesis of cell proteins.

In an article in a recent issue of the journal Cell, Prof Hanna Engelberg-Kulka of the Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada (IMRIC) at the Hebrew University–Hadassah Medical School and her students describe the discovery of a novel molecular machinery for protein synthesis that is generated and operates under stress conditions in E. coli.. The work described in the Cell article was done in collaboration with the laboratory of Prof. Isabella Moll of the University of Vienna.

Their study represents is a breakthrough since it shows, for the first time, that under , such as nutrient starvation and antibiotics, the synthesis of a specific toxic protein is induced that causes a change in the protein-synthesizing machinery of the bacteria. This toxic protein cleaves parts of the ribosome and the mRNAs, thereby preventing the usual interaction between these two components.

As a result, an alternative protein-synthesizing machinery is generated. It includes a specialized sub-class of ribosomes, called "stress ribosomes," which is involved in the selective synthesis of proteins that are directed by the sliced mRNAs, and is responsible for bacterial cell death.

Practically speaking, the discovery of a "stress-induced protein synthesizing machinery" may offer a new way for the design of improved, novel antibiotics that would effectively utilize the stress-inducing mechanism process in order to more efficiently cripple pathogenic bacteria.

Explore further: How do our muscles work? Scientists reveal important new insights into muscle protein

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers reveal a new mechanism of genomic instability

Aug 18, 2011

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have discovered the cellular mechanisms that normally generate chromosomal breaks in bacteria such as E. coli. The study's findings are published in the August 18 issue of the journal ...

Bacteria are models of efficiency

Feb 04, 2009

The bacterium Escherichia coli, one of the best-studied single-celled organisms around, is a master of industrial efficiency. This bacterium can be thought of as a factory with just one product: itself. It exists to make c ...

New Mathematical Model Evaluates Efficiency of E. Coli

Feb 04, 2009

The bacterium Escherichia coli, one of the best-studied single-celled organisms around, is a master of industrial efficiency. This bacterium can be thought of as a factory with just one product: itself. It exists to make c ...

Getting wise to the influenza virus' tricks

May 04, 2008

Influenza is currently a grave concern for governments and health organisations around the world. The worry is the potential for highly virulent bird flu strains, such as H5N1, to develop the ability to infect humans easily. ...

Recommended for you

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

Nov 26, 2014

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

Nov 26, 2014

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

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.