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Details of bacterial 'injection' system revealed
Date:4/26/2009

s work in complementary ways," said Wall, who designed and runs the STEM facility at Brookhaven Lab. By itself, STEM cannot reveal a structure, but it gives very accurate sizes of the molecules making up particular parts, which helps scientists hone in on the structure hinted at by the other techniques. STEM also allows only good, intact molecules to be selected for analysis, which avoids errors inherent in bulk measures of mixtures of intact and broken complexes, a problem that may have affected previous analyses.

"Our reconstruction shows an overall size, shape and major sub-component arrangement consistent with previous studies," said Wall. "However, the new structure also reveals details of individual subunits and their angular orientation, which changes direction over the structure's length. We now see 12-fold symmetric features and details of connections between sub-domains both internally and externally throughout the 'needle' base."

The more accurate model therefore shows how the different parts of the injection machine fit together and may fit with other bacterial components that provide the engine to drive injection. These are important steps toward developing a detailed understanding of how the injection machine works, and to developing inhibitors that can prevent bacterial infections.

Although STEM was built more than 25 years ago, it remains a state-of-the-art tool for accurately determining the stoichiometry and homogeneity of biological complexes. It is one of the unique tools that Brookhaven Lab provides to the scientific community.

In the case of this study, said lead author Ariel Blocker of Oxford University and the University of Bristol, UK, "The STEM experiment was key because it provided unique and independent information that allowed the narrowing down of potential symmetries within the structure to a small set of testable possibilities."


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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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