The three-dimensional structure of a DNA-damaging, bacterial toxin has been visualized by scientists at Rockefeller University. The molecular image of the toxin, published in the May 27 issue of the journal Nature, shows exactly how the toxin is put together at the molecular level and damages human DNA. The structure also could help scientists to design new drugs to fight the wide variety of bacteria that use this toxin.
The toxin, called cytolethal distending toxin, or CDT, is used by bacteria that cause a range of diseases, from typhoid fever to diarrhea. And unlike any other bacterial toxin discovered to date, CDT attacks the DNA in human cells, creating lesions and breaks that cause cells to stop dividing and eventually die.
Principal investigator C. Erec Stebbins, Ph.D., who conducted the research with Rockefeller colleagues Dragana Nesic, Ph.D., and Yun Hsu, says that having a chemical model provides a visual blueprint for understanding how the toxin damages DNA.
Joseph Bonner | EurekAlert!
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