How the bacterial protective shell is adapted to challenging environments
[2016-07-07] Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have published new findings on the adaptation of the bacterial cell wall in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The study reveals novel bacterial defence mechanisms against the immune system and how they can become resistant to antibiotics.
Bacteria are surrounded by a mesh-like structure which, similar to an external skeleton, defines the cell shape and provides protection against external attacks. This remarkable polymer cell wall called peptidoglycan, given its basic composition of sugars and amino acids, is well known for being a major target of beta-lactam antibiotics such as Penicillin.
Despite this structure having been the focus of extensive investigations on the long-lasting battle against bacterial pathogens (i.e. bacteria that cause infectious diseases), there is currently little understanding of its natural variability and the consequences of such changes on the ability of bacteria to adapt and survive in a threatening environment.
[2016-06-30] Researchers at Umeå University are first to discover that bacteria can multiply disease-inducing genes which are needed to rapidly cause infection. The results were published in Science on 30 June 2016.
More than 22 years ago, researchers at Umeå University were first to discover an infection strategy of human pathogenic Yersinia bacteria – a protein structure in bacterial cell-walls that resembled a syringe. The structure, named “Type III secretion system” or T3SS, makes it possible to transfer bacterial proteins into the host cell and destroy its metabolism.
After the discovery, researchers have found T3SS in several other bacteria species and T3SS has proven to be a common infection mechanism that pathogens, i.e. an infectious agent such as a virus or bacterium, use to destroy host cells. Now, Umeå researchers are again first to find a link between infection and rapid production of the essential proteins needed to form “the poisonous syringe”.