An international team of scientists from Hamburg, Vienna and Amsterdam has come at step closer to understanding how mycobacterium such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis function, a press release said Wednesday. This will ultimately lead to a greater understanding of bacteria responible for tuberculosis.
Findings published in “Nature Microbiology”
In a report published in Nature Microbiology, scientists from two Centre for Structure Systems Biology (CSSB) groups – Matthias Wilmanns, Head of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL Hamburg Unit) and Prof. Dr. Thomas Marlovits from Vienna, who is joining the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), reveal the first molecular structure of the type VII secretion system. This secretion system is comprised of four types of proteins that form a hexameric ring around a central pore. The system also has flexible molecular arms that reach into the interior of the bacterial cell and grasp molecules that need to be transported.
Goal of blocking transport with medication
“Our work shows that this is a new kind of architectural principle and an associated molecular transport mechanism unknown hitherto,“ said Professor Marlovits, CSSB. The study was carried out over two years and involved additional collaboration partners from the Vrije University Amsterdam and EMBL. “Each group was able to bring their specific knowledge and expertise to this project,” explained Marlovits, adding, “It is only by combining the different technologies and techniques available in each location that we were able to solve and verify the structure of the type VII secretion system.”
The researchers hope to eventually understand the detailed functon of the transport systems. Marlovits pointed out: “The idea is to eventually block this transport process with suitable medication which have yet to be developed.” This could weaken a tuberculosis infection or perhaps prevent it entirely. Tuberculosis, a lung infection, is one of the top ten causes of human deaths and counts among the most dangerous diseases worldwide along with malaria and HIV/AIDS. According to the World Health Organisation, around 1.5 million people died of tuberculosis in 2013 and 9 million contracted the disease.
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