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Bacteria gauge cold with molecular measuring stick
Date:10/19/2010

ell wall become more rigid as temperatures fall.

Fernandez and colleagues found that the part of the DesK protein that protrudes outside the cell contains a sensitized tip. As long as the tip remains in contact with water molecules outside the cell, DesK remains switched off. As temperatures fall and the cell membrane becomes more rigid, the membrane also becomes thicker. As it thickens, it engulfs the sensitized end of the temperature probe, cutting off contact with water molecules outside the cell. This, in turn, activates DesK and sends the signal to release the cold-protecting chemicals. This mechanism, which Fernandez named the buried buoy trigger, was proposed by Fernandez and probed experimentally by the Argentinean team.

The molecular biology and experimental probes were conducted in the laboratory of Diego de Mendoza at the National University of Rosario in Rosario, Argentina. To confirm the findings, the group constructed versions of DesK proteins of varying lengths. Using these as longer or shorter measuring sticks, the researchers confirmed that the signaling mechanism was triggered based upon whether the tip of the transmembrane sensor remained in contact with water molecules outside the membrane.


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Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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