Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Organelle’s discovery challenges theory, could alter approach to disease treatment


Researchers looking inside a pathogenic soil bacterium have found an organelle, a subcellular pouch, existing independently from the plasma membrane. The discovery within a prokaryotic organism challenges the theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles and suggests a targeted approach to killing many disease-causing organisms.

Acidocalcisomes (the black spheres) as viewed in a trypanosome, a family of parasites that cause African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and the first organisms where Docampo found this organelle. The cell is approximately 10 microns long and 4 microns wide. Courtesy of Kildare Miranda

"The organelle we found in the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens is practically identical to the organelle called acidocalcisome in unicellular eukaryotes," said Roberto Docampo, a professor of veterinary pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Docampo began researching these organelles in 1994. He soon determined that a tiny granule in yeast, fungi and bacteria, thought to be for storage, was a fully operational organelle containing pyrophosphatase, a pump-like enzyme that allows proton transport. He named it an acidocalcisome for its acidic and calcium components. In 2000, he reported its existence in Plasmodium berghei, a malaria-causing eukaryotic parasite.

The newest discovery appeared in a paper published online this month by the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The paper, by Docampo and colleagues at the Center for Zoonoses Research and Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology at Illinois, will be published in a later print edition of the journal.

Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a prokaryote, a unicellular organism lacking membrane-bound nuclei. It causes crown gall disease in many broad-leaved plants but also is a favored tool for plant breeding because of its model system of DNA transfer into the hosts it invades. Samples were provided to Docampo’s team by biotechnology researcher Stephen K. Farrand, a professor of microbiology and crop sciences at Illinois.

Bacteria and other prokaryotes generally lack an endomembrane system.

Thus bacteria are presumed to lack compartments such as organelles not somehow linked to the plasma membrane ringing the organisms.

"What we describe is a discrete organelle independent of the plasma membrane," Docampo said. "It has a proton pump in its membrane, which is used to maintain its interior acidic content. This has never been described before in a bacterium."

The existence of discrete organelles is a defining component of unicellular eukaryotes, which have membrane-bound nuclei and specialized structures in their cell boundaries. The evolution of eukaryotic organelles "is a matter of extensive debate," Docampo said. The principle of endosymbiosis says that as microorganisms engulfed others, then new, membrane-surrounded organelles emerged in eukaryotes.

"It appears that this organelle has been conserved in evolution from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, since it is present in both. This argues against the belief that all eukaryotic organelles were formed when early eukaryotes swallowed prokaryotes," he said.

Using transmission electron and immunoelectron microscopy and X-ray microanalysis on the bacterium, researchers got a highly magnified and illuminated view.

They applied a fluorescent dye into the suspected organelle. They saw a membrane around it. The dye stained areas only within it, not in the cytosol. Serum containing antibodies to peptides related to pyrophosphatase unveiled this pump-like enzyme, and other staining techniques revealed high levels of polyphosphate only in the organelle.

Many parasites such as those that cause malaria, African sleeping sickness and toxoplasmosis and bacteria that contain these acidocalcisome organelles are pathogens.

Some pharmaceutical approaches have targeted pyrophosphate-related enzymes, Docampo said. "Our suggestion is that if drugs specifically targeted these organelles, you may be able to kill the entire organisms."

In addition to Docampo, other Illinois researchers were Manfredo Seufferheld, Mauricio C.F. Vieira, Felix A. Ruiz, Claudia O. Rodrigues and Silvia N.J. Moreno. The National Institutes of Health funded the research through a grant to Docampo.

Jim Barlow | UIUC
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>