Worm sugarcoats bacterial toxins to stave off death

January 30, 2013 by Karen Kindle
Worm sugarcoats bacterial toxins to stave off death
Frank Schroeder's laboratory works on the structural identification of small molecules and their biological functions in nematodes. His group focuses primarily on C. elegans, a harmless, nonparasitic worm used as a model for disease-causing parasitic nematodes.

(Phys.org)—Pathogenic bacteria kill their animal or plant hosts through the production of toxic molecules. But how do animals and plants defend themselves against these toxins? Researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI), located at Cornell University, and the University of Florida (UF) have found that the tiny nematode C. elegans chemically disables bacterial toxins: The worms attach a sugar molecule (glucose), which renders toxic bacterial molecules harmless. The paper was published in the Nov. 19 issue of ACS Chemical Biology.

Frank Schroeder (BTI), Arthur Edison (UF) and colleagues examined how C. elegans defends itself against two unrelated bacterial toxins released by P. aeruginosa and E. coli, both of which can kill the worm. They found that C. elegans adds a sugar residue to an in the P. aeruginosa toxin and to the nitrogen in the E. coli toxin. The worms go on to add a phosphate, which results in chemicals far less toxic than the original bacterial compounds.

"Worms employ detoxification mechanisms very similar to those we know from humans, though they likely use a different family of enzymes," Schroeder said. Elucidation of the enzymes the worms use to modify toxins could lead to the development of detoxification inhibitors, which could improve the efficacy of existing drugs for parasitic roundworm infections in humans, livestock and plants.

Schroeder's laboratory works on the structural identification of small molecules and their biological functions in nematodes. His group focuses primarily on C. elegans, a harmless, nonparasitic worm used as a model for disease-causing . In addition, C. elegans research has provided major insights in evolutionarily conserved aspects of human biology; for example, the mechanisms underlying diabetes, aging and neurological diseases.

Explore further: Biologists' favorite worm gets viruses

Related Stories

'Worm speak' uses chemicals to communicate

January 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A species of small, transparent roundworms have a highly evolved language in which they combine chemical fragments to create precise molecular messages that control social behavior, reports a new study from ...

Compounds shared by all worms may lead to parasite treatment

April 17, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Worms are important decomposers in soil and are great for fishing, but in humans, the slimy wrigglers spell trouble. Hookworms, whipworms, Ascaris, Guinea worms and trichina worms are just a few parasitic nematodes ...

Worms hijack development to foster cannibalism, study finds

January 4, 2013

(Phys.org)—Conventional wisdom holds that genes determine the shape and structure (morphology) of animals, but something else may be at play. A new study shows that a roundworm (P. pacificus) regulates its offspring's morphology ...

Recommended for you

Isolation of Fe(IV) decamethylferrocene salts

August 29, 2016

(Phys.org)—Ferrocene is the model compound that students often learn when they are introduced to organometallic chemistry. It has an iron center that is coordinated to the π electrons in two cyclopentadienyl rings. (C5H5- ...

Bringing artificial enzymes closer to nature

August 29, 2016

Scientists at the University of Basel, ETH Zurich, and NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering have developed an artificial metalloenzyme that catalyses a reaction inside of cells without equivalent in nature. This could be a ...

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

0 comments

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.