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Bacterium Salmonella enterica regulates virulence according to iron levels found in its surroundings
Date:5/10/2011

associated with food-borne illnesses and is responsible for a number of diseases, from gastroenteritis to systemic infections affecting a wide variety of animals, including humans. During the first stages of infection, the bacterium enters the host through the intestinal epithelium thanks to the presence of a complex system of proteins called T3SS. The activation of T3SS however requires a large amount of energy and therefore depends on many systems to control and make sure its expression is produced just at the right moment.

The study published by UAB researchers indicates that one of the external signals controlling T3SS activation is the level of free iron of the host and that this control is carried out by the Fur protein. Thus, thanks to the Fur protein, when the bacterium detects that levels are high it interacts with its DNA and activates T3SS expression which allows it to invade the epithelium. Once it penetrates the epithelial barrier, however, the levels of free iron reduce drastically due to all of the iron secretion systems the host has at its disposal. In this case T3SS remains silent and thus avoids an unnecessary expenditure of energy.

The study demonstrates for the first time that Fur not only acts as an iron level sensor and regulator of this element in the cell's interior, but also helps the pathogen detect its location during the infection process, acting as a direct activator for the invasion. The research reinforces the idea that Fur is capable of modulating gene expression, adapting it to the needs of each stage of the infection.

The results obtained demonstrate that delving deeper into the study at molecular level of the interactions between host - pathogen in relation to iron must lead in the future to the development of new strategies in the design of vaccines, as well as discover new targets for antibacterial action to fight against infectious diseases. In fact, the Molecular Microbiology Group of the UAB Depar
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Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado
MariaJesus.Delgado@uab.cat
34-935-814-049
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Source:Eurekalert

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