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Zooming in on the weapons of Salmonella
Date:3/4/2011

Some of the most dreaded diseases in the world such as plague, typhoid and cholera are caused by bacteria that have one thing in common: they possess an infection apparatus which is a nearly unbeatable weapon. When attacking a cell of the body, they develop numerous hollow-needle-shaped structures that project from the bacterial surface. Through these needles, the bacteria inject signal substances into the host cells, which re-program the latter and thereby overcome their defense. From this time on it's easy game for the pathogens; they can invade the cells unimpeded and in large numbers.

The biochemist and biophysicist Thomas Marlovits, a group leader at the Vienna Institutes IMP (Research Institute of Molecular Pathology) and IMBA (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology) has been occupied for several years with the infection complex of salmonellae. As early as in 2006 Thomas Marlovits showed how the needle complex of Salmonella typhimurium develops (Nature 441, 637-640). Together with his doctoral student Oliver Schraidt he has now been able to demonstrate the three-dimensional structure of this complex in extremely high resolution. The team was able to show details with dimensions of just 5 to 6 angstroems, which are nearly atomic orders of magnitude. Their work will be presented in the forthcoming issue of the journal Science.

Looks do kill!

Never before has the infection tool of salmonellae been presented in such precision. This was achieved by the combined use of high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy and specially developed imaging software. "Austria's coolest microscope" makes it possible to shock-freeze biological samples at minus 196 degrees centigrade and view them in almost unchanged condition. However, when "zooming in" on their object, scientists are confronted with a treacherous problem: the high-energy electron beam falls at such high concentrations on the sample that the latter is destroyed
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Contact: Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl
hurtl@imp.ac.at
43-179-730-3625
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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