Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Bacterial armor for the first time visualized in minute detail

Abstract:
Not always pathogenic

Bacteria are omnipresent - in the water, the air and the soil, as well as in plants, animals and even people. We tend to think of bacteria as pathogenic, causing disease. We associate them with intestinal upsets and throat infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning. 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.

Bacterial armor for the first time visualized in minute detail

Belgium | Posted on June 11th, 2012

All the more reason then for getting to know bacteria really well and finding out how they grow and divide, interact with their surroundings and make us sick, or how we can put their properties to even better use. In spite of centuries of research, however, bacteria still hold many mysteries.

A micro-sized mail coat

For fifty years now, bacteriologists have known that most 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 armor or mail coat. 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. "We succeeded in imaging the structure of the protein coat for one specific bacterium (Geobacillus stearothermophilus) down to its individual atoms," says Han Remaut. "We were also able to determine how the individual proteins attached to each other to form a 2D structure similar to a kind of mail coat from the Middle Ages, but on a molecular scale, of course."

This tour de force required using a combination of technologies, including X-ray equipment and electronic microscopy. The most formidable challenge was converting the proteins into stable crystals. For that part of the research, the scientists used small antibodies, so-called nanobodies. These were able to stabilize the protein crystals so that their structure could be imaged in detail with X-ray diffraction.

Protection from the outside world

"What we see confirms our earlier assumption that the S-layer functions as a protective coat against outside threats, such as viruses or proteins targeting the bacterial cell wall," continues Remaut, "because if the same bacteria are grown in a 'friendly' environment, free of extraneous threats, they do not develop an S-layer. We also saw that there are chinks in the armor which allow for the exchange of nutrients and other useful substances with the outside world."

To what extent the protein coat plays a role in disease processes in humans still needs to be determined by the Brussels researchers. The S-layer they imaged was that of a harmless soil bacterium. Some pathogenic bacteria, such as those that cause anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) or the hospital bug Clostridium difficile, also feature this type of armor. "There are indications that these bacteria use their S-layer for attaching to the cells of the host. But whether the S-layer forms a potential starting point for fighting these bacteria is still unclear," adds Remaut. "That will require more research."

Interface with nanotechnology

Remaut's 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. In particular, the self-assembly of the S-layer fascinates scientists. "You can compare this self-assembly to a pile of bricks organizing themselves into a perfectly laid wall, but on a nanoscale - one-billionth the size of a common brick," says Remaut. "Such artificial miniature structures could be used, for example, for efficiently delivering active ingredients, such as drugs, to places in the body that are hard to reach."

This is an excellent example of how fundamental biology research can be a source of inspiration for the development of future nanomaterials.

Scientific publication

The research will be published in the leading journal Nature (SbsB structure and lattice reconstruction unveil Ca21 triggered S-layer assembly), Doi 10.1038/nature11155.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Sooike Stoops

32-924-46611

Copyright © VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Self Assembly

Self-assembling 3D battery would charge in seconds May 22nd, 2018

Engineered polymer membranes could be new option for water treatment May 6th, 2018

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

Tiny nanomachine successfully completes test drive: Researchers at the University of Bonn and the research institute Caesar build a one-wheeled vehicle out of DNA rings April 11th, 2018

Nanomedicine

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Graphene carpets: So neurons communicate better: Research by SISSA reveals that graphene can strengthen neuronal activity, confirming the unique properties of this nanomaterial. The study has been published on Nature Nanotechnology June 13th, 2018

New optical sensor can determine if molecules are left or right 'handed' June 13th, 2018

A nanotech sensor that turns molecular fingerprints into bar codes June 7th, 2018

Discoveries

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Making quantum puddles: Physicists discover how to create the thinnest liquid films ever June 13th, 2018

Nickel ferrite promotes capacity and cycle stability of lithium-sulfur battery June 13th, 2018

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Nano-saturn: Supramolecular complex formation: Anthracene macrocycle and C60 fullerene June 8th, 2018

Announcements

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Nanobiotechnology

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Graphene carpets: So neurons communicate better: Research by SISSA reveals that graphene can strengthen neuronal activity, confirming the unique properties of this nanomaterial. The study has been published on Nature Nanotechnology June 13th, 2018

New optical sensor can determine if molecules are left or right 'handed' June 13th, 2018

Promising news from biomedicine: DNA origami more resilient than previously understood June 4th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project