Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmail

Date:
June 10, 2012
Source:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Summary:
Scientists have uncovered the structure of the protective protein coat which surrounds many bacteria like a miniature suit of armor. The research has far ranging consequences in helping us understand how some pathogenic bacteria infect humans and animals, and could help us develop new vaccines.

S layer bacteria.
Credit: ©VIB, 2012

An international team of scientists, funded in the UK by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has uncovered the structure of the protective protein coat which surrounds many bacteria like a miniature suit of armour. Their research, which is published June 10 in Nature, has far ranging consequences in helping us understand how some pathogenic bacteria infect humans and animals, and could help us develop new vaccines.

Until now, scientists have known very little about the structure and function of this coat, which scientists call S-layer, despite the fact that some bacteria invest as much as a third of their total protein production in building it.

The team of scientists from the UK, France and Belgium, were able to image the S-layer of a harmless soil bacterium called Geobacillus stearothermophilus down to the scale of a single atom. They revealed that the individual proteins of the protective layer hook together much like the chainmail of a medieval knight.

Dr Stefan Howorka, of UCL (University College London), led the work in the UK. He explains "These protein coats have remained quite mysterious to scientists even though they are found on a huge variety of bacteria. Using advanced imaging techniques, we have uncovered for the first time the structure of an S-layer in remarkable detail showing that the protein subunits are linked together in a manner resembling a chainmail. This remarkably optimized layer not only provides a tough but flexible coat of armour to protect the bacterium, but is also permeable allowing nutrients and other substances to diffuse in or out."

This chainmail coat supports the shape of bacteria and protects them from environmental hazards. The coat is also thought to be important in allowing many pathogenic bacteria to infect cells, helping germs to stick to and slide into human or animal cells where they can wreak havoc. Other pathogens coat themselves with a protein lattice that makes them invisible to the "radar" of the immune system.

Dr Howorka continues "Now that we have worked out how to obtain the structure of the S-layer in one bacterium, we expect that the structure of the protein coats of other species will soon be revealed. Uncovering the bacterial armour of pathogens like the superbug Clostridium difficile or of Bacillus anthraci, the bacterium responsible for anthrax, is now a high priority for many scientists. This understanding provides a real opportunity to find chinks in the bacterial armour that would allow precise targeting of antibiotics or vaccines against these challenging pathogens."

The remarkable structure of the S-layer coat also holds promise as a carrier for vaccines. By exploiting the ability of these coats to self-assemble from their individual building blocks it should be possible to construct hybrid vaccines that fuse harmless S-layers with bits of proteins from pathogenic bacteria.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said "This work is a great example of how important it is to study the secrets of how nature fits together at the most minute scale. By revealing how things look we can gain an insight into how they work. Understanding how nature works is going to be crucial in combating many of the great challenges facing society."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ekaterina Baranova, Rιmi Fronzes, Abel Garcia-Pino, Nani Van Gerven, David Papapostolou, Gιrard Pιhau-Arnaudet, Els Pardon, Jan Steyaert, Stefan Howorka, Han Remaut. SbsB structure and lattice reconstruction unveil Ca2 triggered S-layer assembly. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11155

Cite This Page:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmail." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151519.htm>.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. (2012, June 10). Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151519.htm
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Scientists reveal structure of bacterial chainmail." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151519.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) — An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


Bacterial Armor for the First Time Visualized in Minute Detail

June 11, 2012 — Many bacteria protect themselves against threats from the outside world by developing a protective protein layer that acts as armor. Scientists have succeeded in imaging the structure of this armor ... read more
from the past week

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