Scientists unlock secrets of protein produced by disease-causing fungus

Apr 16, 2014

A team that includes scientists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Johns Hopkins University and St. Mary's University reported the structure of a protein that helps a common fungus to infect the body.

The fungal pathogen Candida albicans causes , diaper rashes and oral thrush, and is the most common to infect humans. It can also cause a life-threatening infection of the blood called disseminated candidiasis.

"In this study, we determined the three-dimensional structure of a never-before-seen cell wall called SOD5 that the organism uses as a defense against the human immune system," said P. John Hart, Ph.D., the Ewing Halsell-President's Council Distinguished Professor of biochemistry at the UT Health Science Center and Research Scientist in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

"SOD5 is a copper-only protein that exhibits significant structural differences from copper/zinc superoxide dismutases (SODs)," Dr. Hart said. "Because SOD5 molecules are widespread throughout fungi, including C. albicans, but are not found in humans, the structural differences can be exploited to develop compounds that specifically target SOD5 to treat a number of widespread fungal infections."

Current conventional antifungal treatments such as fluconazole can be toxic to the liver in certain individuals, he noted.

"SOD5 is an unprecedented, very powerful antioxidant protein that enables C. albicans to ward off of the host immune response," said study senior author Valeria Culotta, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can cause oxidative damage.

The finding was published April 7 online ahead of print by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Explore further: Life's extremists may be an untapped source of antibacterial drugs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How a common fungus knows when to attack

Jul 24, 2012

The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans inconspicuously lives in our bodies until it senses that we are weak, when it quickly adapts to go on the offensive. The fungus, known for causing yeast and other minor ...

Research identifies how mouth cells resist Candida infection

Sep 02, 2013

Candida albicans is a common fungus found living in, and on, many parts of the human body. Usually this species causes no harm to humans unless it can breach the body's immune defences, where can lead to serious illness or dea ...

Dysfunctional chemokine receptor promotes candidiasis

Nov 01, 2013

Candida albicans is one of the leading causes of hospital-acquired infections in immune compromised patients. The risk of both developing candidiasis and the clinical outcome of infection is variable among patients, and th ...

Chlamydia protein has an odd structure, scientists find

Jun 11, 2013

A protein secreted by the chlamydia bug has a very unusual structure, according to scientists in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. The discovery of the protein's shape could ...

New Way to Fight Fungal Infection

Jun 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of researchers led by Amy G. Hise, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, has discovered how the body ...

Recommended for you

Cohesin molecule safeguards cell division

Nov 21, 2014

The cohesin molecule ensures the proper distribution of DNA during cell division. Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna can now prove the concept of its carabiner-like ...

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press ons

Nov 21, 2014

There are plenty of body parts that don't grow back when you lose them. Nails are an exception, and a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals some of the r ...

Scientists develop 3-D model of regulator protein bax

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Tubingen, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) provide a new 3D model of the protein Bax, a key regulator of cell death. When active, Bax ...

Researchers unwind the mysteries of the cellular clock

Nov 20, 2014

Human existence is basically circadian. Most of us wake in the morning, sleep in the evening, and eat in between. Body temperature, metabolism, and hormone levels all fluctuate throughout the day, and it ...

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.