Pore protein plays active role in toxins entry into cells
Scientists at Harvard Medical School (HMS) have revealed details of a key step in the entry of anthrax toxin into human cells. The work, which grew out of an ongoing effort to produce a better anthrax therapeutic, shows that the protective antigen component of the bacterial toxin plays an active role in transferring the other two components of the toxin through the cell membrane. The research, led by R. John Collier, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at HMS, provides insight into the broader question of how proteins cross cell membranes. The findings appear in the July 29 issue of Science.
An anthrax bacterium secretes three nontoxic proteins that assemble into a toxic complex on the surface of the host cell to set off a chain of events leading to cell toxicity and death. Protective antigen (PA) is one of these proteins, and after binding to the cell, seven copies of it assemble into a specific complex that is capable of forming a pore in a cellular membrane. The pore permits the other two proteins, lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF), to enter the cell interior, where the factors interfere with metabolic processes, leading to death of the infected individual.
Leah Gourley | EurekAlert!
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