To Battle Bacterial Infections, Stop Their ‘Propellers’ From Forming

Artificially modifying the proteins responsible for the flagella ‘tails’ of bacteria, which helps them move around, could be a promising way to stave off infections without antibiotics.

AsianScientist (Sep. 7, 2016) – Recent research by scientists in Japan into the formation of flagella, or long hairs that protrude from the bodies of bacteria, may have implications for fighting bacterial infections without using antibiotics. Their findings were published in Scientific Reports.

Bacteria require flagella for movement, or what scientists call motility. The flagella, which can vary in number, are hair-like extensions that form rotating-like propellers, giving the bacteria the ability to swim in their environment.

Flagella are important because there is a clear correlation between motility and infection. Senior author Professor Fadel Samatey and colleagues from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University have now found ways to dwarf the development of flagella by targeting the proteins responsible for their growth, rotation, and ability to pass through the membranes of the bacterium.

The protein they worked on, FlgA, is a periplasmic flagellar chaperone key to the early stage of the flagella’s development, in the assembly of a P-ring that allows the flagella to grow outside the bacterium’s body. They discovered that this FlgA 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 into 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,” said Samatey.

At this stage, the FlgA protein is artificially modified outside the bacterium’s body, and then inserted back into the bacterium. It is possible that in the future, the researchers will find another way to achieve the same result; for example, a small molecule that can modify the geometry of the protein, and that can be incorporated in a pill.

The article can be found at: Matsunami et al. (2016) Structural Flexibility of the Periplasmic Protein, FlgA, Regulates Flagellar P-ring Assembly in Salmonella enterica.


Source: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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