Structural insights into tiny bacterial harpoons

Phys.org | March 01, 2019

New research sheds light on how different bacterial species can build complex nano-harpoons with different protein building blocks. Bacteria use these harpoons called Type VI secretion systems to inject toxins into nearby cells. Researchers from the University of Sheffield found that while the proteins varied, there were structurally similar portions that interacted with the machinery. Bacteria produce complex nano-harpoons on their cell surface. One of their functions is to harpoon and inject toxins into cells that are close by. Producing such a complex weapon requires lots of different moving components that scientists are still trying to understand. Researchers from the University of Sheffield have been using some of Diamond's crystallography beamlines to understand a particularly enigmatic piece of this tiny puzzle. The team led by David Rice and Mark Thomas worked on a protein component of the harpoon called TssA which they already knew was an integral piece of the machinery.

Spotlight

The microbiome is the collection of organisms within a particular environment, which constitutes a vast ecosystem of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms. Such an ecosystem exists in our digestive system, composed of a collection of bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, and protozoans.

Spotlight

The microbiome is the collection of organisms within a particular environment, which constitutes a vast ecosystem of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms. Such an ecosystem exists in our digestive system, composed of a collection of bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, and protozoans.

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