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Bacteria armed with toxic tips kill rivals

A mysterious type of protein found in bacteria and other organisms, including humans, appears to act as a delivery system for toxins. While these proteins, called rearrangement hotspots (Rhs), have been recognized for more 30 years, their function has been enigmatic.

A research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined the role Rhs play in intercellular competition in bacteria. They found that Rhs proteins enable Dickeya dadantii 3937, a phytopathogenic bacterium that causes soft rot diseases on many crops, to compete with members of its own kind through touch-dependent killing.

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