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Bacteria with vuvuzelas: Microbes use a channel protein as a syringe for toxins

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The bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens is a constant companion of some roundworms. These worms assault insect larvae, thereby infecting them with the bacteria; the pathogens then attack the cells of their victims with a deadly cocktail of various toxins. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund working together with colleagues from Freiburg University and Jacobs University Bremen, have discovered that the bacteria use an important toxin complex like a syringe. It makes its way into the host cells via constricted vesicles in the cell membranes, and modifies their structure from within. Part of the toxin complex then forces its way inside the cell through the vesicle membrane by means of a vuvuzela-like protein channel, and kills the cell.

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