These bacteria insert into their host cells proteins and other virulence factors, which kill by — among other things — disrupting the cells' normal structure. One of these proteins, called YpkA, attacks a cell’s internal skeleton. Now, a study published by Rockefeller University researchers in the most recent issue of Cell shows exactly how YpkA does this, proving the protein’s mechanism from the atomic to the organismal level and providing a potential target for new antibiotic drugs.
C. Erec Stebbins, associate professor and head of the Laboratory of Structural Microbiology, and graduate student Gerd Prehna solved the structure for one region of the YpkA protein, a “binding domain” where it interlocks with another protein on the host cell’s membrane. By looking at the crystal structure of this protein-protein complex, Prehna discovered that the configuration looked just like one formed by some of the host’s own signaling proteins. And it’s this mimicry, he found, that leads to a signaling shutdown and deregulation of the cell’s normal structure.
After establishing this effect, Prehna set about disrupting it by mutation. Using the structure to guide him, he changed three amino acids of YpkA that contacted host proteins, and then looked at how the mutated bacteria affected human cells compared to the original wild-type Yersinia. His results confirmed the hypothesis from the structural study: While the wild-type YpkA wreaked havoc on their host cells’ cytoskeletons, the mutant left the actin-based skeleton intact.
Then, the researchers took it one step further. Stebbins and Prehna worked with collaborators at Stony Brook University, who created Yersinia bacteria with Prehna’s mutations. The Stony Brook researchers then injected mice with the wild-type and mutant strains of Yersinia. All the mice infected with the wild-type bacteria died within nine days of exposure. But the group that received the YpkA mutant had an 80 percent survival rate, showing that Prehna’s mutation drastically lowered Yersinia’s harmful effects. “Altering this binding site not only impairs the bacteria’s ability to disrupt the host cytoskeleton,” Stebbins says, “but it decreases its virulence significantly.”
“It’s rare to find something that has such a strong effect that you can hit one protein so specifically, knock out essentially half its activity, and have such a dramatic result,” he says. “Not only did we have a mechanistic explanation, but we could connect what we were seeing in animal studies all the way down to what was happening at the atomic level.”
Kristine Kelly | EurekAlert!
First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife
Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering