Anthrax cellular entry point uncovered

Jan 25, 2008

The long-sought-after biological “gateway” that anthrax uses to enter healthy cells has been uncovered by microbiologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Anthrax spores enter the cell through something called Mac-1, a receptor that sits on the surface of certain cells.

This is the first study to uncover exactly how the bacteria get inside cells to begin with, the UAB researchers said. Previous studies have shown what happens after anthrax spores enter the body and wreak havoc.

Unraveling the anthrax-Mac-1 gateway is a milestone in the ongoing efforts to protect humans from bioterrorism and biological warfare, the UAB microbiologists said. Such a discovery will speed the development of new drugs and vaccines to fight or prevent anthrax infection, and advance the understanding of bacterial infection.

The findings are published in the online version of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will soon appear in a print edition.

“We know anthrax infection can occur in wild and domestic animals, but in humans this disease is extremely rare and very dangerous. It is a bioweapon,” said John Kearney, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB Department of Microbiology and co-author on the study. “This study reveals the biological paradigm that makes the anthrax spore clever enough to target the Mac-1 receptor, and use this entry point to boost its lethality.”

Bacillus anthracis infection occurs in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation and through swallowing spores. The skin infection is the most common type and can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed rapidly.

The more serious form is inhalation anthrax, which was diagnosed in a few adults during the anthrax scare after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States.

In the UAB study, researchers worked under strict bio-safe conditions to infect cultures of cells and laboratory-bred mice with a strain of anthrax often used in research.

Infection rates and other observations were significant enough to convince the microbiologists anthrax relies on Mac-1 to do its damage inside healthy cells.

“By showing how anthrax spores recognize Mac-1 receptors, this discovery points toward a precise entry point which B. anthracis uses to proliferate and trigger lethal consequences,” said Claudia Oliva, Ph.D., and Melissa Swiecki, Ph.D., both researchers in the UAB Department of Microbiology and co-lead authors on the study.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Explore further: Dairy farms asked to consider breeding no-horn cows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

8 hours ago

EU member states are divided on how to stop the spread of a disease affecting olive trees in Italy that could result in around a million being cut down, officials said Friday.

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

8 hours ago

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Jury decides Silicon Valley firm did not discriminate

9 hours ago

A jury decided Friday that a prestigious venture capital firm did not discriminate or retaliate against a female employee in a case that shined a light on gender imbalance and working conditions for women ...

Intel in talks with Altera on tie-up

9 hours ago

US tech giant Intel is in talks with rival Altera on a tie-up to broaden the chipmaker's product line amid growth in Internet-connected devices, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Recommended for you

Dairy farms asked to consider breeding no-horn cows

20 hours ago

Food manufacturers and restaurants are taking the dairy industry by the horns on an animal welfare issue that's long bothered activists but is little known to consumers: the painful removal of budding horn ...

Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

Mar 27, 2015

EU member states are divided on how to stop the spread of a disease affecting olive trees in Italy that could result in around a million being cut down, officials said Friday.

China starts relocating endangered porpoises: Xinhua

Mar 27, 2015

Chinese authorities on Friday began relocating the country's rare finless porpoise population in a bid to revive a species threatened by pollution, overfishing and heavy traffic in their Yangtze River habitat, ...

A long-standing mystery in membrane traffic solved

Mar 27, 2015

In 2013, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular machineries for vesicle trafficking, a major transport ...

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.