St. Jude finding gives insights into how pneumonia bacteria ‘hijack’ a molecular shuttle that carries antibodies from the bloodstream and use this shuttle to invade the body
Scientists at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital have discovered that the shape of a protein on the surface of pneumonia bacteria helps these germs invade the human bloodstream. This finding, published Dec. 16 online by the EMBO Journal, could help scientists develop a vaccine that is significantly more effective at protecting children against the disease.
The St. Jude researchers determined the shape of a large, paddle-like molecule that Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria use to latch onto cells lining the throat and lungs. The protein, called CbpA, binds to a molecule on the cell called pIgR, which takes antibodies from the bloodstream on one side of the cell and transports them to the other side. There it releases the antibody at the lining of the throat and lungs. If a pneumococcus bacterium is hovering on the lining of the respiratory tract, this germ binds to pIgR and pushes this antibody shuttle back through the cell to the bloodstream. Once at the other side of the cell, the pneumococcus breaks free of pIgR and enters the blood, where it can multiply and infect the body.
Bonnie Cameron | EurekAlert!
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