Researchers make significant strides in identifying cause of bacterial infections

Apr 22, 2009

Several bacterial pathogens use toxins to manipulate human host cells, ultimately disturbing cellular signal transduction. Until now, however, scientists have been able to track down only a few of the proteins that interact with bacterial toxins in infected human cells.

Now, researchers of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in Germany have identified 39 interaction partners of these toxins, using novel technology which allowed them to screen for large numbers of proteins simultaneously (Cell Host & Microbe, Vol. 5, Issue 4, 397-403).

Many bacteria inject toxins into human cells using a secretion system that resembles a molecular syringe. Within the host cell, some of these toxins are activated in such a way that they can manipulate important cellular signaling pathways. In healthy cells, these signals serve to regulate metabolism or cell division, among other things. By manipulating the signals, bacteria can abuse the cell machinery of the human host in order to spread and survive.

Applying a method developed by Professor Matthias Mann of the MPI, the scientists succeeded for the first time in systematically investigating the cellular target sites of the bacterial toxins. "Surprisingly, the toxins are not optimally adapted to the structures of human proteins," Dr. Matthias Selbach of MDC explained. While binding relatively weakly to individual human proteins, they are able to influence several different proteins simultaneously. "A single bacterial toxin seems to function like a master key that can access different host cell proteins in parallel", Dr. Selbach said. "Perhaps it is due to this strategy that bacteria are able to attack very different and, thus, to increase their survival chances in the host."

Dr. Selbach hopes that these basic research findings will help to improve the treatment of bacterial infections in the future. Instead of nonspecific antibiotic therapy, new drugs could target the signaling mechanisms which are disrupted by the bacterial toxins.

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (news : web)

Explore further: Do sexually transmitted diseases drive variation in mammalian immunity?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Toxic shock: immune system's anthrax link

Aug 23, 2007

Human immune proteins crucial for fighting cancer, viruses and bacterial infections belong to an ancient and lethal toxin family previously only found in bacteria, Australian researchers have found. These pro ...

Legionnaire's bacterial proteins work together to survive

Oct 23, 2007

Proteins within the bacteria that cause Legionnaire’s disease can kidnap their own molecular “coffin” and carry it to a safe place within the cell, ensuring their survival, Yale School of Medicine researchers report ...

Scientists look at 'syringe' assembly in plague bacteria

Feb 27, 2008

Bacteria that cause the bubonic plague avoid death in our bodies by injecting our cells with immune evasion proteins. Scientists have discovered a new way bacteria build and hold the syringes, according to research published ...

Recommended for you

How malaria-spreading mosquitoes can tell you're home

Jan 22, 2015

Females of the malaria-spreading mosquito tend to obtain their blood meals within human dwellings. Indeed, this mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, spends much of its adult life indoors where it is constantly expose ...

Study uncovers secrets of a clump-dissolving protein

Jan 22, 2015

Workhorse molecules called heat-shock proteins contribute to refolding proteins that were once misfolded and clumped, causing such disorders as Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer's ...

Using viruses to find the cellular Achilles heel

Jan 22, 2015

Back-to-back studies from researchers at the Gladstone Institutes have exposed new battle tactics employed by two deadly viruses: hepatitis C (HCV) and the Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). Published in the ...

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.