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Bacteria with a built-in thermometer
Date:5/20/2009

Researchers in the "Molecular Infection Biology group" at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and the Braunschweig Technical University could now demonstrate for the first time that bacteria of the Yersinia genus possess a unique protein thermometer the protein RovA - which assists them in the infection process. RovA is a multi-functional sensor: it measures both the temperature of its host as well as the host's metabolic activity and nutrients. If these are suitable for the survival of the bacteria, the RovA protein activates genes for the infection process to begin. These results have now been published in the current online edition of the PLoS Pathogens science magazine.

Yersinia can trigger various different diseases: best well-known is the Yersinia pestis type which caused the Plague in medieval times. This led to the death of around a third of Europe's population. The Yersinia enterocolitica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis species cause an inflammation of the intestines following food poisoning: the bacteria infect the cells of the intestines, leading to heavy bouts of diarrhoea. The Yersinia bacteria contain invasin as a surface protein to help them penetrate the intestinal cells. The immune cells quickly identify this so-called virulence factor as a danger and launch an immune response. To avoid this, the bacteria quickly lose the invasin soon after entering the body. The germs then adapt their metabolism and feed on the nutrients prepared by the host cells. They also produce substances which kill off the body's defence cells, such as phagocytes. Little was known about how Yersinia is able to regulate these individual stages of infection until now.

Researchers at the HZI, led by Petra Dersch, have now identified how these mechanisms work. The RovA protein plays a key role. The protein reads the temperature for the bacteria. Depending on the environme
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Contact: Dr. Bastian Dornbach
bastian.dornbach@helmhotz-hzi.de
49-053-161-811-407
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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