Understanding how bacteria infect cells is crucial to preventing countless human diseases. In a recent breakthrough, scientists from the University of Bristol have discovered a new approach for studying molecules within their natural environment, opening the door to understanding the complexity of how bacteria infect people.
The research, led by a team of biochemists, microbiologists and physicists and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provides an unprecedented level of detail of the consequences of a bacterium approaching another cell, directly in situ.
Until now, traditional approaches to understanding infection have focused on either studies of the cells involved or dissection of individual molecules present within the cells. Leo Brady, Professor of Biochemistry and Mumtaz Virji, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, who led the research, have developed a novel method for bridging these, until now, separate approaches.
The team studied the common bacterium Moraxella catarrhalis, which causes middle ear infections in young children, and is a major cause of morbidity in those with heart disease. For many years, scientists approached this problem from the molecular medicine approach through isolating and studying proteins from the Moraxella cell surface that initiate infection.
From these detailed studies the team have been able to develop an overview of one of the key proteins, called UspA1. However, as with the vast majority of molecular medicine approaches, this model has been based on studies of the UspA1 protein in isolation, rather than in its natural setting on the bacterium surface. A common worry for many biomedical scientists is how such understanding translates into the reality of these tiny molecules when they are part of a much larger cell. Understanding the increased complexity of individual molecules within the cellular mle is crucial to understanding why many pro
|Contact: Caroline Clancy|
University of Bristol