Decoding the molecular machine behind E. coli and cholera

Feb 09, 2012

Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered the workings behind some of the bacteria that kill hundreds of thousands every year, possibly paving the way for new antibiotics that could treat infections more effectively.

With on the rise in strains of , innovative strategies are needed to discover ways of treating bacterial infections in both humans and in agriculture.

Writing in the journal , the team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences show how they studied the molecular machine known as the 'type II bacterial secretion system', which is responsible for delivering potent toxins from bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E. coli and Vibrio cholerae into an infected individual.

Professor Richard Pickersgill, who led the research, said: "Bacterial secretion systems deliver disease causing toxins into host tissue. If we can understand how these machines work, then we can work out how it they might be stopped."

In order to infect, have to export their toxins into their host across both an inner and outer membrane. Professor Pickersgill explains: "The pore in the outer membrane which the toxins pass through is formed from which are guided into place by a protein pilot. The protein pilot interacts with the subunits that form the pore in the outer membrane; if the protein pilot is missing, then the pore forms in the inner membrane and not the outer membrane and secretion is stopped."

Professor Pickersgill adds: "If we can successfully interfere with this or with other interactions we are discovering then we might be able to halt the secretion system and prevent these harmful diseases."

The same type II secretion system that enables E. coli and cholera is also used by bacteria that cause substantial food spoilage, such as Dickeya dadantii. Crop spoilage by plant infecting bacteria is becoming an increasing problem in the UK due to the warmer and wetter summers caused by global climate change, and the team hope that the results of this study will be of interest to both agrichemical scientists seeking ways of preventing crop damage and pharmaceutical companies seeking .

Explore further: The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope

More information: ‘Structural and functional insights into the pilotin-secretin complex of the type II secretion system’ will be published in the online edition of PLoS Pathogens on Thursday 9 February 2012.

Related Stories

Structure mediating spread of antibiotic resistance identified

Jan 08, 2009

Scientists have identified the structure of a key component of the bacteria behind such diseases as whooping cough, peptic stomach ulcers and Legionnaires' disease. The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology ...

Scientists get up close to bacteria's toxic pumps

Nov 30, 2009

Scientists are building a clearer image of the machinery employed by bacteria to spread antibiotic resistance or cause diseases such as whooping cough, peptic stomach ulcers and legionnaires' disease.

Finding E. coli’s Achilles heel

Nov 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Thanks to the work of a Simon Fraser University researcher and two of his students, science is closer to finding a new way of combatting infections caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other related bacteria.

Virus uses 'Swiss Army knife' protein to cause infection

Aug 17, 2011

In an advance in understanding Mother Nature's copy machines, motors, assembly lines and other biological nano-machines, scientists are describing how a multipurpose protein on the tail of a virus bores into ...

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

11 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

12 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...