Independent research groups have uncovered a new class of proteins, called the chaplins, that function like amyloid fibrils to allow reproductive growth in the bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. Amyloid proteins are most commonly recognized for their role in Alzheimers disease, where they aggregate into insoluble, mesh-like plaques in the brains of Alzheimers patients. This finding reveals an unprecedented role for amyloid-like proteins in Gram-positive bacteria.
S. coelicolor is a soil-dwelling bacterium that, along with its relatives, produces the majority of naturally derived antibiotics (e.g., tetracycline and erythromycin), as well as many antitumor, antifungal, and immunosuppressant agents. Unlike most other prokaryotes, S. coelicolor has a complex life cycle, producing two different cell types depending upon environmental conditions: vegetative substrate hyphae that grow in moist soil, and aerial hyphae that grow in air and give rise to reproductive spores.
As published in the July 15th issue of Genes & Development, independent research carried out by Dr. Marie Elliot, Dr. Mark Buttner and colleagues at the John Innes Centre (UK) and Stanford University (USA), and by Dennis Claessen, Dr. Lubbert Dijkhuizen, Dr. Han Wösten and colleagues at the University of Groningen and the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), have identified the chaplin protein family as essential mediators of aerial S. coelicolor growth. The research in the Netherlands was funded by a grant of the National Programme EET (Economy, Ecology and Technology) to find biological alternatives for the environmentally harmful antifouling compounds used today on ships.
Heather Cosel | EurekAlert!
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