Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UT Southwestern researchers probe mechanisms of infection

10.03.2009
A newly discovered receptor in a strain of Escherichia coli might help explain why people often get sicker when they're stressed.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are the first to identify the receptor, known as QseE, which resides in a diarrhea-causing strain of E coli.

The receptor senses stress cues from the bacterium's host and helps the pathogen make the host ill. A receptor is a molecule on the surface of a cell that docks with other molecules, often signaling the cell to carry out a specific function.

The study is available online and in a future issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Vanessa Sperandio, associate professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern and the study's senior author, said QseE is an important player in disease development because the stress cues it senses from a host, chiefly epinephrine and phosphate, are generally associated with blood poisoning, or sepsis.

"Patients with high levels of phosphate in the intestine have a much higher probability of developing sepsis due to systemic infection by intestinal bacteria," Dr. Sperandio said. "If we can find out how bacteria sense these cues, then we can try to interfere in the process and prevent infection."

Millions of potentially harmful bacteria exist in the human body, awaiting a signal from their host that it's time to release their toxins. Without those signals, the bacteria pass through the digestive tract without infecting cells. What hasn't been identified is how to prevent the release of those toxins.

"There's obviously a lot of chemical signaling between host and bacteria going on, and we have very little information about which bacteria receptors recognize the host and vice versa," Dr. Sperandio said. "We're scratching at the tip of the iceberg on our knowledge of this."

In 2006, Dr. Sperandio's lab was the first to identify the receptor QseC sensor kinase, a molecule found in the membrane of a diarrhea-causing strain of E coli known as enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, or EHEC. Prior research by Dr. Sperandio found that when a person ingests EHEC – which is usually transmitted through contaminated food such as raw meat – it travels peacefully through the digestive tract until reaching the intestine. There, chemicals produced by the friendly gastrointestinal microbial flora and the human hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine alert the bacteria to its location.

Once QseC recognizes the stress hormones, it initiates a cascade of genetic activations in which EHEC colonizes the intestine and moves toxins into human cells, altering the makeup of the cells and robbing the body of nutrients.

"The bacteria get what they want – nourishment – and the person ends up getting diarrhea," Dr. Sperandio said.

The new study identifies QseE, a receptor only found in intestinal bacteria, as the receptor that ends this QseC-initiated cascade. It also provides the timing for the bacterium's actions, including the regulation of the genes necessary for EHEC to cause diarrhea.

"EHEC needs both receptors to be fully virulent and express its toxins," Dr. Sperandio said. "When people are stressed they have more epinephrine and norepinephrine being released. Both of these human hormones activate the receptors QseC and QseE, which in turn trigger virulence. Hence, if you are stressed, you activate bacterial virulence."

Dr. Sperandio said the findings also suggest that there may be more going on at the genetic level in stress-induced illness than previously thought.

"The problem may not only be that the stress signals are weakening your immune system, but that you're also priming some pathogens at the same time," she said. "Then it's a double-edged sword. You have a weakened immune system and pathogens exploiting it."

Previous research by Dr. Sperandio found that phentolamine, an alpha blocker drug used to treat hypertension, and a new drug called LED209 prevent QseC from expressing its virulence genes in cells.

The next step is to test whether phentolamine has the same effect on QseE.

Kristen Holland Shear | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

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

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | 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

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>