Protein changes shape to let salts and other solutes in and out of the cell through a process called ’gating’ in order to keep tension on the membrane steady
New findings about a protein that keeps cells alive by opening and closing pores within a cell’s membrane may open the door to the development of new antibiotics. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are studying a protein, called MscL, found in the membrane of the single-cell bacterium Escherichia coli. The protein is essentially an emergency-response valve that changes shape to let salts and other solutes in and out of the cell through a process called "gating" in order to keep tension on the membrane steady. This gating process allows some of the cell’s innards to spill out or liquid from the surrounding environment to rush in.
If this protein – a type of which is found in nearly all microbes – doesn’t function properly, the cell may die. The researchers have refined previous descriptions of MscL, which may have implications for potential drug therapies designed to kill microorganisms. They also developed a novel way to manipulate the protein’s gating, thus killing the bacteria. The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and are available online.
Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
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