Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Waiting for the right moment

Bacterial pathogens delay their entry into cells

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
Tyrosine-phosphorylated caveolin-1 blocks bacterial uptake by inducing Vav2-RhoA-mediated cytoskeletal rearrangements

PLoS Biology, August 24, 2010


Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Meyer
Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 28 460-400

Barbara Abrell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

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...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

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...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>