Bacteria use chemical harpoons to dock onto their host

New approach for therapies against bacterial infections discovered

02.06.2015

Group A Streptococci adhering to fibrin. Schematic depiction of the newly discovered thioester linkage in the fibronectin-binding protein I (SfbI) of Streptococci.

© HZI / Rohde

The steady increase in antibiotics resistance is one of the major global challenges facing health research. Therefore, alternatives to antibiotics are sought urgently. A potential therapeutic approach has recently been identified by scientists of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig. They showed in a new study published in the journal, eLife, that bacteria attach themselves to the Host by means of chemical harpoons in order to infect the host.

The bacterium, Streptococcus pyogenes, causes a number of infections such as scarlet fever and necrotising fasciitis. A team of scientists from Scotland, England and Germany recently found that the bacteria use surface proteins with harpoon like structures to bind to the Host: An important step of the infection process. Since the study indicates that other pathogenic bacteria also use a similar mechanism, the results yield a promising approach for future therapy of bacterial infections.

"If we succeed to prevent the binding, then we should be able to bypass the problem of antibiotics becoming less effective," says Prof Manfred Rohde, the HZI scientist who was involved in the study.

For more information about the study, please see the Press release of St. Andrews University.

Original publication:

Miriam Walden, John M Edwards, Aleksandra M Dziewulska, Rene Bergmann, Gerhard Saalbach, Su-Yin Kan, Ona K Miller, Miriam Weckener, Rosemary J Jackson, Sally L Shirran, Catherine H Botting, Gordon J Florence, Manfred Rohde, Mark J Banfield, Ulrich Schwarz-Linek. An internal thioester in a pathogen surface protein mediates covalent host binding.eLife 2015; 4:e06638, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.06638.