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How microbes take out the trash

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The molecular machinery bacteria use to rid themselves of toxic substances including antimicrobial drugs has been studied in detail by a UA-led team of researchers. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to new weapons in the fight against pathogens.

Microbes have colonized virtually every spot on this planet, from deep sea vents spewing scalding seawater laden with heavy metals to the icy pinnacles of the world's tallest mountain ranges.

Part of their ability to thrive in the harshest of environments rests on sophisticated cellular mechanisms to deal with substances that are needed to run biochemical processes but dangerous when allowed to accumulate to higher levels.

"Copper is a double-edged sword for organisms because it is a vital ingredient in certain enzymes needed to carry out metabolic functions, but too much of it is toxic and can kill the cell," said Christopher Rensing, an associate professor in the department of soil, water and environmental science in the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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