OCT 18, 2020 5:13 AM PDT

Small RNA is Connected to Bacterial Pathogenicity

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It's thought that over half of the global population carries a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori in their stomach. While it's often harmless, in some people the microbe can cause inflammation and may lead to ulcers or the development of stomach cancer. The bacterium has ways to hide out in the niches of the stomach and has virulence factors that can enable it to withstand the harsh environment there and cause disease. Researchers have now learned that a small bacterial RNA molecule called NikS is regulating many of these factors. The findings have been reported in Molecular Cell.

Artistic representation of human stomach cells infected with Helicobacter pylori, showing the special Hummingbird cell shape induced by the bacterium. Credit  (Image: Chair of Molecular Infection Biology II / University of Wuerzburg / SCIGRAPHIX)

The scientists found that NikS is helping to control four genes: two of H. pylori's critical virulence factors and two encoding for outer membrane proteins. NikS is helping control the gene encoding for the bacterial oncoprotein CagA, which has a major role in H. pylori-induced cancer development

"With the knowledge of the different functions and underlying molecular mechanisms of this small RNA during infection and the associated bacterial signaling pathways, we can gain new targets for the development of novel antimicrobial strategies," said the senior study author Professor Cynthia Sharma, the Chair for Molecular Infection Biology II at Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg.

H. pylori can survive in the inhospitable stomach environment in part because of a mechanism called phase variation, in which random gene mutations are employed by bacteria. This gives a microbial population flexibility so it can adapt and survive, at least some of the bacteria in a population will be ready to generate the right amount of protein at the right time.

This work has suggested that phase variation does not only impact genes that encode for proteins; it also influences small, non-coding RNA molecules like NikS. Different levels of NikS might be affected by phase variation, which would impact disease-causing factors. NikS was also shown to affect how bacteria enter host cells.

"This mechanism could play a major role in enabling Helicobacter pylori to adapt successfully to the variable stomach environment and thus chronically colonize its host," said Sharma.

The researchers want to know more about how NikS is involved in the ability of H. pylori to colonize different parts of the stomach, and the effect it has on bacterial genes and pathogenicity.

Soures: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Würzburg, Molecular Cell

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 18, 2022
Immunology
T Cell Deficiency Leaves Some Vulnerable to Infection
OCT 18, 2022
T Cell Deficiency Leaves Some Vulnerable to Infection
The mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) bacteria can be found everywhere, so almost everyone breathes some of it in occasi ...
OCT 14, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Precursor to ATP
OCT 14, 2022
The Precursor to ATP
  Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the essential energy molecule that drives our bodies. The cleavage of one of its ...
NOV 04, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Copy Number Variation - An Important Aspect of Human Genetics
NOV 04, 2022
Copy Number Variation - An Important Aspect of Human Genetics
We learn that we inherit two copies of every gene, one from each of our parents, but the story is a bit more complex.
NOV 05, 2022
Health & Medicine
Autism Study Reveals Widespread Transcriptomic Changes in the Brain
NOV 05, 2022
Autism Study Reveals Widespread Transcriptomic Changes in the Brain
We know of some risk factors for autism spectrum disorder, and like other neuropsychiatric disorders, there is a genetic ...
NOV 15, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Revealing the Mutations that Make Melanoma Immortal
NOV 15, 2022
Revealing the Mutations that Make Melanoma Immortal
Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes, preventing breakage. Some cancer cells can use those protective caps to their adv ...
NOV 28, 2022
Neuroscience
Experimental Drug Halts Deadly Brain Cancer Growth Without Harming Brain Cells
NOV 28, 2022
Experimental Drug Halts Deadly Brain Cancer Growth Without Harming Brain Cells
  Researchers have found that blocking a certain enzyme halts the growth of a childhood brain cancer tumor. The cor ...
Loading Comments...