Cell biology Design inference News

Human immune system found to take bacteria prisoners

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In “Septin proteins take bacterial prisoners” (Nature, 05 December 2011), Amanda Mascarelli reports, “A cellular defence against microbial pathogens holds therapeutic potential”:

The latest research in human cells suggests that septins build ‘cages’ around bacterial pathogens, immobilizing the harmful microbes and preventing them from invading other healthy cells.

This cellular defence system could help researchers to create therapies for dysentery and other illnesses, the researchers say. “This is a new way for cells to control an infection,” says Pascale Cossart, a cell biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, …

The researchers discovered the caging behaviour with Shigella, a bacterium that causes sometimes lethal diarrhoea in humans and other primates. To propagate from cell to cell, Shigella bacteria develop actin-polymer ‘tails’, which propel the microbes around and allow them to force their way into neighbouring host cells. To counterattack, human cells produce a cell-signalling protein called TNF-a. The researchers found that when TNF-a is present, thick bundles of septin filaments encircle the microbes. This, in turn, interferes with tail formation and stops Shigella in its tracks

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