SEP 04, 2016 04:46 AM PDT

Targeting Bacterial Flagella in the Fight Against Infections

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Most bacteria have flagella; they are threadlike appendages extending from the surface of many microbes. They help move the organism around, a function called motility, in a rotating motion. Enabling a bacterium to get around seems to be pretty critical to pathogenicity; there is an association between infection and motility. A team of researchers from the Trans-Membrane Trafficking Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), wanted to investigate the flagella formation in the hopes of shedding light on new disruptions of bacterial infection.

An artistic rendering of bacteria with three flagella / Credit: OIST


"When you have a bacterial infection, the first action is to take antibiotics," explained Fadel Samatey, Head of the Trans-Membrane Trafficking Unit and leader of the work. "The goal of antibiotics is to kill any bacterium. But this goal has side effects, because not all the bacteria that live in our body are harmful. So, what we are thinking about is how we can disrupt infections, but without just killing any bacterium. One way to do that would be to disrupt the bacteria's motility, which means to disrupt the flagella."

The scientists wanted to interfere with the development of the flagella to disrupt its function. To do so, they targeted the proteins that are crucial to the flagella. One protein is vital to the rotation of the flagella, another protein gives the flagella access through the bacterial membrane, putting it on the outside of the microbe. All proteins that compose the flagella are created inside the organism, then shuttled through a channel that extends through the membrane and into the flagella, which allows the flagella to grow from the tip instead of the bottom.

"We worked on a protein that is key in the early stage of the flagella's development. This protein allows the flagella to grow outside the bacteria body," Samatey explained. "We have discovered that this protein exists in two different forms, in which the basic chemistry of the protein is the same, but there is a different geometrical arrangement of the protein's components. If the protein is forced in its 'narrower' geometrical structure, it is impossible for the flagella to grow outside the bacterium's body, as the channels that would allow the flagella in exit the bacterium's body do not form. The flagella are trapped inside and do not grow."

The protein has been modified outside the bacteria and reinserted at this point. But in the future, researchers hope to find another way to achieve that result, such as by modifying the protein’s geometry. A molecule in a pill could be a way to do that, and thus disrupt motility in bacteria to help combat infections. 
 

 


The video above shows the incredible flagellum in detail.

SouSources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via OIST, Scientific Reports

 

 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 20, 2019
Earth & The Environment
OCT 20, 2019
How temperature affects citrus-greening disease
Ever heard of huanglongbing? While more commonly referred to as citrus greening disease, huanglongbing (HLB) is threatening your favorite morning beverage ...
OCT 20, 2019
Immunology
OCT 20, 2019
How to Kill Superbugs
https://www.technologynetworks.com/immunology/news/enhancing-the-infection-fighting-potential-of-natural-products-321553...
OCT 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 20, 2019
DNA Analysis Shows How Algae Respond to a Changing Environment
While a type of algae appears to be thriving in the face of its downgraded envrionment, the story is turning out to be more complex....
OCT 20, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 20, 2019
Harmful Algae Blooms Blamed for the Deaths of Several Pets
People and pet owners, especially in the Southeast but all across the nation are being warned to watch out for harmful algae blooms....
OCT 20, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 20, 2019
Unlocking the Secret of Carbapenem Resistance in a Hospital Pathogen
While attention has been brought to the issue and some progress has been made, hospital-acquired infections are still a major problem....
OCT 20, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 20, 2019
RNA Polymerases Can Signal to One Another Over Long Genomic Distances
Scientists have taken a close look at transcription in the Escherichia coli bacterium at the level of a single molecule....
Loading Comments...