Recent events have confirmed that bioterrorism is no longer a threat but a reality. To provide wide-ranging access to the latest scientific information about anthrax and other potential bioweapons, Nature has put together a special online focus on this issue. This focus includes the pre-publication* of two research papers on anthrax toxin, as well as a collection of research, news and feature articles from our electronic archive. Because of the heightened interest in this area, among both the scientific community and the general public, all material in this feature has been made freely available.
The causative agent of the anthrax disease, the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, secretes a toxin made up of three proteins: protective antigen (PA), oedema factor (OF) and lethal factor (LF). PA binds to cell-surface receptors on the host’s cell membranes. After being cleaved by a protease, PA binds to the two toxic enzymes, OF and LA, and mediates their transportation into the cytosol where they exert their pathogenic effects.
In the first of our pre-published papers, Bradley et al. report the cloning of the human PA receptor using a genetic complementation approach. The receptor, named anthrax toxin receptor, is a type I membrane protein with an extracellular Von Willebrand factor A domain that binds directly to PA. In the other paper, Pannifer et al. describe the crystal structure of lethal factor — the crucial pathogenic enzyme of anthrax toxin — which cleaves members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK) family and disrupts cellular signalling. As both PA and LF are possible targets for therapeutic agents, these papers provide valuable information to researchers working towards better treatments for anthrax.
Crystal structure of the anthrax lethal factor
ANDREW D. PANNIFER, THIANG YIAN WONG, ROBERT SCHWARZENBACHER, MARTIN RENATUS, CARLO PETOSA, JADWIGA BIENKOWSKA, D. BORDEN LACY, R. JOHN COLLIER, SUKJOON PARK, STEPHEN H. LEPPLA, PHILIP HANNA & ROBERT C. LIDDINGTON
Published online: 23 October 2001, DOI:10.1038/n35101998
Identification of the cellular receptor for anthrax toxin
KENNETH A. BRADLEY, JEREMY MOGRIDGE, MICHAEL MOUREZ, R. JOHN COLLIER & JOHN A.T. YOUNG
Published online: 23 October 2001, DOI:10.1038/n35101999
nature science update
Anthrax action shapes up
Designing a polyvalent inhibitor of anthrax toxin
MICHAEL MOUREZ, RAVI S. KANE, JEREMY MOGRIDGE, STEVE METALLO, PASCAL DESCHATELETS, BRET R. SELLMAN, GEORGE M. WHITESIDES & R. JOHN COLLIER
Nature Biotechnology 19, 958–961 (October 2001)
| Abstract | Full Text | PDF |
Genomics and future biological weapons: the need for preventive action by the biomedical community
C M FRASER & M R DANDO
Published online: Nature Genetics 22 October 2001, DOI:10.1038/ng763
| Full Text | PDF |
The bugs of war
Could our knowledge of microbial genomics and skill in genetic engineering be used to create ’enhanced’ bioweapons? Carina Dennis assesses the threat, and the efforts to counter it.
Nature 411, 232–235 (17 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (457 K) |
Genetic sleuths rush to identify anthrax strains in mail attacks
Nature 413, 657–658 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(166 K) |
Bioweapons treaty under threat
Nature 413, 657 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(166 K) |
Gaps remain in Japan’s biodefences
Nature 413, 658 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(95 K) |
Senators call for biodefence boost
Nature 413, 441 (4 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(98 K) |
US rejects stronger bioweapons treaty
Nature Biotechnology 19, 793 (September 2001)
| Full Text | PDF |
Pathogen threat spurs research initiatives
Nature 411, 727 (14 June 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(204 K) |
Shock as labs miss anthrax samples
Nature 411, 514–515 (31 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(66 K) |
Smallpox stocks: new focus for research?
Nature Medicine 5, 474 (May 1999)
| Full Text | PDF |
Adjusting FDA policies to address bioterrorist threat
JEFFREY L. FOX
Nature Biotechnology 17, 323–324 (April 1999)
| Full Text | PDF |
Iraq crisis spurs new bioweapons moves
Lack of provision in the Biological Weapons Convention for monitoring and verifying compliance has long been a worry. But negotiations for such provision have been given new momentum by recent events in Iraq.
Nature 391, 831 (26 February 1998)
| Full Text | PDF(189 K) |
Related commentary and opinion
A call to arms
Biologists should involve themselves in the debate over biological weapons — both to ensure that we have the means to counter the threats that such weapons pose and to help keep those threats in perspective.
Nature 411, 223 (17 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF(55 K) |
Lessons from Iraq on bioweapons
There are strong political pressures to relax the scrutiny of suspected biological weapons activity in Iraq. But the experience of United Nations inspectors in the country points to significant dangers in such a policy.
Nature 398, 187–188 (18 March 1999)
| Full Text | PDF(187 K) |
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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