New research from the University of Michigan, however, reveals key details in the process by which bleach works its antimicrobial magic.
In a study published in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Cell, a team led by molecular biologist Ursula Jakob describes a mechanism by which hypochlorite, the active ingredient of household bleach, attacks essential bacterial proteins, ultimately killing the bugs.
"As so often happens in science, we did not set out to address this question," said Jakob, an associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. "But when we stumbled on the answer midway through a different project, we were all very excited."
Jakob and her team were studying a bacterial protein known as heat shock protein 33 (Hsp33), which is classified as a molecular chaperone. The main job of chaperones is to protect proteins from unfavorable interactions, a function that's particularly important when cells are under conditions of stress, such as the high temperatures that result from fever.
"At high temperatures, proteins begin to lose their three-dimensional molecular structure and start to clump together and form large, insoluble aggregates, just like when you boil an egg," said lead author Jeannette Winter, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Jakob's lab. And like eggs, which once boiled never turn liquid again, aggregated proteins usually remain insoluble, and the stressed cells eventually die.
Jakob and her research team figured out that bleach and high temperatures have very similar effects on proteins. Just like heat, the hypochlorite in bleach causes proteins to lose their structure and form large aggregates.
"Many of the proteins that hypochlorite attacks are essential for bacterial growth, so inactivating those proteins likely kills the bacteria," said second author Marianne Ilbert, a postdoctoral fellow in Jakob's lab.
These findings are not only important for understanding how bleach keeps our kitchen countertops sanitary, but they may lead to insights into how we fight off bacterial infections. Our own immune cells produce significant amounts of hypochlorite as a first line of defense to kill invading microorganisms. Unfortunately, hypochlorite damages not just bacterial cells, but ours as well. It is the uncontrolled production of hypochlorite acid that is thought to cause tissue damage at sites of chronic inflammation.
How did studying the protein Hsp33 lead to the bleach discovery? The researchers learned that hypochlorite, rather than damaging Hsp33 as it does most proteins, actually revs up the molecular chaperone. When bacteria encounter the disinfectant, Hsp33 jumps into action to protect bacterial proteins against bleach-induced aggregation.
"With Hsp33, bacteria have evolved a very clever system that directly senses the insult, responds to it and increases the bacteria's resistance to bleach," Jakob said.
Nancy Ross-Flanigan | EurekAlert!
Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences