Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered

Date:
January 22, 2011
Source:
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Summary:
To defend microbial attacks, the human body naturally produces a group of antibiotics, called defensins. An interdisciplinary team of biochemists and medical scientists has now deciphered the mechanism of action of a defensin, hitherto looked upon as exhibiting only minor activity. Their results might be useful in future drug development for inflammatory and infectious diseases. Nature now presents their findings online ahead of the print publication.

Surprisingly, while almost all proteins are active only in their folded form, in the case of the small defensin the opposite is true. To activate the beta-defensin 1 the thioredoxin opens the three disulphide bridges that hold the molecule together. The molecule then opens up into the active state. Using this mechanism the body has the opportunity to selectively activate the defensin.
Credit: TUM

To defend microbial attacks, the human body naturally produces a group of antibiotics, called defensins. An interdisciplinary team of biochemists and medical scientists has now deciphered the mechanism of action of a defensin, hitherto looked upon as exhibiting only minor activity. Their results might be useful in future drug development for inflammatory and infectious diseases. Nature now presents their findings online ahead of the print publication.

Related Articles


Under standard laboratory conditions, the human beta-defensin 1 (hBD-1), a human antibiotic naturally produced in the body, had always shown only little activity against microbes. Nevertheless the human body produces it in remarkable quantities. The solution to the puzzle was the investigation process itself, as the research group led by Dr. Jan Wehkamp at the Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch Institute for Clinical Pharmacology of the Stuttgart-based Robert Bosch Hospital found out.

Before the research group took a new approach to this research, defensins were usually tested in the presence of oxygen, although little oxygen is present, for example, in the human intestine. Starting out from the discovery that a special antibiotic-activating protein of the human body is diminished in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, the working group investigated how defensins act under low-oxygen conditions. During their investigations the scientists found out that under these conditions hBD-1 unfolds a strong antibiotic activity against lactic acid bacteria and yeast.

Furthermore the researchers discovered that another human protein, thioredoxin, is able to activate beta-defensin 1 even in the presence of oxygen. Moritz Marcinowski and Professor Johannes Buchner from the Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, used circular dichroism spectroscopy to elucidate the differences between the folded inactive and the unfolded active form of the protein.

Surprisingly, while almost all proteins are active only in their folded form, in the case of the small defensin the opposite is true. To activate the beta-defensin 1 the thioredoxin opens the three disulphide bridges that hold the molecule together. The molecule then opens up into the active state. Using this mechanism the body has the opportunity to selectively activate the defensin.

So far the cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unclear. Genetic as well as environmental factors seem to play a role, finally leading to a weakening of the antimicrobial barrier, which is mainly mediated by defensins. Accordingly the identified mechanism might contribute to the development of new therapies to treat affected patients.

The presented work is the result of a cooperation project with six participating centers, led by Emmy Noether junior research group leader Dr. Jan Wehkamp. In addition to five researchers from Stuttgart (Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch-Institute for Clinical Pharmacology and the Robert Bosch-Hospital (Bjoern Schroeder, Sabine Nuding, Julia Beisner, Eduard Stange and Jan Wehkamp) the Department of Dermatology at University of Tόbingen (Martin Schaller), the Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology in Tόbingen (Sandra Groscurth), the Department of Dermatology at University of Kiel (Zhihong Wu), as well as the Department of Chemistry at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (Moritz Marcinowski and Johannes Buchner) were involved. The work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Emmy Noether-Program for young researchers, Cluster of Excellence Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich) and by the Robert- Bosch-Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bjoern O. Schroeder, Zhihong Wu, Sabine Nuding, Sandra Groscurth, Moritz Marcinowski, Julia Beisner, Johannes Buchner, Martin Schaller, Eduard F. Stange, Jan Wehkamp. Reduction of disulphide bonds unmasks potent antimicrobial activity of human β-defensin 1. Nature, 2011; 469 (7330): 419 DOI: 10.1038/nature09674

Cite This Page:

Technische Universitaet Muenchen. "Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121144003.htm>.
Technische Universitaet Muenchen. (2011, January 22). Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121144003.htm
Technische Universitaet Muenchen. "Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121144003.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) — As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins