Bacterial armor for the first time visualized in minute detail
Many bacteria protect themselves against threats from the outside world by developing a protective protein layer that acts as armor. Scientists at VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel succeeded in imaging the structure of this armor for the first time. The possible implications of the research are very varied and far-reaching.
We tend to think of bacteria as pathogenic, causing disease. However, the great majority of bacteria are really useful – they play a role in our digestion, clean up waste water in sewage treatment plants, produce yoghurt and cheese from milk, and some are even used in the manufacture of drugs.
For fifty years now, bacteriologists have known that many bacteria develop an outside protein layer consisting of thousands of hooked together copies of a single protein. The structure and function of this so-called S-layer can best be compared to an armored coat or chainmail. Until now scientists had a very limited understanding of the structure and function of this protective coat, which is rather remarkable, given that some bacteria invest up to a third of their total protein production in its construction.
With the publication of their findings in Nature, VIB researchers Han Remaut and Ekaterina Baranova at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, together with French and British scientists, have pulled the hitherto unknown S layer out of obscurity. The research is also being followed with interest by chemists, nanotechnologists and material scientists. The 2D-structure and mechanisms underlying the development of the S-layer makes it suitable as a component or as a model for new nanomaterials.
More info and source: website VIB