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

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion
26.07.2017 | Penn State

nachricht New virus discovered in migratory bird in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
26.07.2017 | Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>