The killer within -- a novel bacterial suicide mechanism

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 18:30 in Biology & Nature

The zeta toxins are a family of proteins that are normally present within various pathogenic bacteria and can mysteriously trigger suicide when the cells undergo stress. A team led by Anton Meinhart at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg has now found the mechanism underlying this programmed bacterial cell death. Their paper, publishing next week in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology, reports that zeta toxins convert a compound required for bacterial cell wall synthesis into a poison that kills bacteria from within. In the future it may be possible to hijack this mechanism for bacterial defense and to design drugs that mimic these toxins.

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