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Protein's "hands" enable bacteria to establish infection, research finds

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When it comes to infecting humans and animals, bacteria need a helping hand.

Kansas State University biochemists have found the helping hand: groups of tiny protein loops on the surface of cells. These loops are similar to the fingers of a hand, and by observing seven individual loops on the surface of E. coli bacterial cells, the researchers found that the loops can open or close to grab iron in the environment.

"These structures are like small hands on the surface of bacterial cells," said Phillip Klebba, principal investigator and professor and head of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. "They make the bacteria capable of recognizing something and grabbing it from the environment. It's amazing that such a tiny molecule can do that."

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