Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmail

11.06.2012
An international team of scientists, funded in the UK by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has uncovered the structure of the protective protein coat which surrounds many bacteria like a miniature suit of armour.

Their research, which is published today (Sunday 10 June) in Nature, has far ranging consequences in helping us understand how some pathogenic bacteria infect humans and animals, and could help us develop new vaccines.

Until now, scientists have known very little about the structure and function of this coat, which scientists call S-layer, despite the fact that some bacteria invest as much as a third of their total protein production in building it.

The team of scientists from the UK, France and Belgium, were able to image the S-layer of a harmless soil bacterium called Geobacillus stearothermophilus down to the scale of a single atom. They revealed that the individual proteins of the protective layer hook together much like the chainmail of a medieval knight.

Dr Stefan Howorka, of UCL (University College London), led the work in the UK. He explains "These protein coats have remained quite mysterious to scientists even though they are found on a huge variety of bacteria. Using advanced imaging techniques, we have uncovered for the first time the structure of an S-layer in remarkable detail showing that the protein subunits are linked together in a manner resembling a chainmail. This remarkably optimized layer not only provides a tough but flexible coat of armour to protect the bacterium, but is also permeable allowing nutrients and other substances to diffuse in or out."

This chainmail coat supports the shape of bacteria and protects them from environmental hazards. The coat is also thought to be important in allowing many pathogenic bacteria to infect cells, helping germs to stick to and slide into human or animal cells where they can wreak havoc. Other pathogens coat themselves with a protein lattice that makes them invisible to the "radar" of the immune system.

Dr Howorka continues "Now that we have worked out how to obtain the structure of the S-layer in one bacterium, we expect that the structure of the protein coats of other species will soon be revealed. Uncovering the bacterial armour of pathogens like the superbug Clostridium difficile or of Bacillus anthraci, the bacterium responsible for anthrax, is now a high priority for many scientists. This understanding provides a real opportunity to find chinks in the bacterial armour that would allow precise targeting of antibiotics or vaccines against these challenging pathogens."

The remarkable structure of the S-layer coat also holds promise as a carrier for vaccines. By exploiting the ability of these coats to self-assemble from their individual building blocks it should be possible to construct hybrid vaccines that fuse harmless S-layers with bits of proteins from pathogenic bacteria.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said "This work is a great example of how important it is to study the secrets of how nature fits together at the most minute scale. By revealing how things look we can gain an insight into how they work. Understanding how nature works is going to be crucial in combating many of the great challenges facing society."

Mike Davies | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

Further reports about: BBSRC building block pathogenic bacteria scientists

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>