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Cracking bacteria's secrets may lead to new treatments

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Scientists have found another chink in bacteria's armour, mapping for the first time the structure of a protein that plays an important role helping infection gain a foothold in the body.

Published today in Nature a group of international scientists from Monash University, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Georgia Institutes of Technology and the Diamond Light Source have determined the structure, in two species of bacteria, of an essential membrane protein called BamA.

Many membrane proteins are exposed on the surface of invading bacteria to help them avoid detection by the body's immune system while they establish sufficient populations to cause disease. As such, these proteins are regarded as excellent therapeutic targets to fight infectious diseases.

Co-author and Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow Professor Trevor Lithgow of Monash University's School of Biomedical Sciences has focused on understanding the structure and function of BamA. His lab was the first to detail how BamA evolved to promote bacterial outer membrane synthesis, thereby providing a first line of defense against the immune system.
 
 

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