Pathogens make themselves feel at home in the human body, invading cells and living off the plentiful amenities on offer. However, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, together with colleagues at Harvard University, reveal an opposite strategy used to ensure infection success. Pathogens can actually delay their entry into cells to ensure their survival. Upon cell contact, bacteria trigger a local strengthening of the cellular skeleton with the aid of signalling molecules, allowing them to remain outside the cell. The researchers also show that this strategy, unknown until now, is used by certain intestinal pathogens as well. (PLoS Biology, 24th of August 2010)
Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, forming micro-colonies on the surface of a human cell, stimulate signals to stabilize their extracellular life style. Image: Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology
Infection with the sexually transmitted bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae can lead to an inflammation of the urogenital tract, the uterus and ovaries. By means of thread-shaped proteins on its surface called pili, the bacterium attaches itself to the cell membrane. Once attached, the bacteria undergo rapid changes of their surface structure to avoid recognition by the host’s immune system. Only during the later stages of infection will the pathogens penetrate cells and occasionally advance into deeper tissues to find further breeding ground.
Until now scientists were firmly focused on understanding the tricks used by these pathogens to enter cells. The results of the Berlin-based researchers suggest, however, that bacteria may spend as much effort in resisting cell entry. Host cells tend to generate tiny vesicles by which they transport bacteria inadvertently into the interior. The researchers have now shed some light on the signals which prevent the bacteria from being ‘swallowed’. Upon fastening themselves to the cell surface, the bacteria induce a sequence of events that results in the strengthening of the cell skeleton directly beneath the point of attachment. The structural protein Actin is transported to attachment sites, where it forms a strong, supportive chain. In tandem, another structural protein Caveolin-1 and the signalling proteins VAV2 and RhoA are recruited to the cell membrane where they play a central role in effectively maintaining N. gonorrhoeae in the extracellular milieu.
Better outside than inside
These results have opened up new perspectives in understanding the course of infections: "For a long time it was thought that most pathogens strive to enter cells quickly. However, the opposite may be the case. It seems the bacteria prolong their extracellular existence in order to survive", declares Thomas F. Meyer of the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology. By anchoring to the cell via pili proteins and assembling an underlying support skeleton, the pathogen is buffered against the often inhospitable conditions of the extracellular environment.
By extrapolating their findings to the intestinal bacteria Escherichia coli, the scientists have indicated that the strategy of delaying entry into cells to ensure survival may be widespread among pathogens, possibly even the bacterial agents of meningitis and pneumonia. These newly discovered signalling pathways may therefore have exciting implications for the prevention of infection.
Original work:Jan Peter Boettcher, Marieluise Kirchner, Yuri Churin, Alexis Kaushansky, Malvika Pompaiah, Hans Thorn, Volker Brinkmann, Gavin MacBeath, Thomas F. Meyer
PLoS Biology, August 24, 2010
Contact:Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Meyer
Barbara Abrell | EurekAlert!
Hunting pathogens at full force
22.03.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
A 155 carat diamond with 92 mm diameter
22.03.2017 | Universität Augsburg
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences