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Bacteria build ‘houses’ in healthy cells

Bacteria are able to build camouflaged homes for themselves inside healthy cells—and cause disease—by manipulating a natural cellular process, new research shows.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study reveals how a pair of proteins from the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, alters a host protein in order to divert raw materials within the cell for use in building and disguising a large structure that houses the bacteria as it replicates.

The modification of the host protein creates a dam, blocking proteins that would be used as bricks in cellular construction from reaching their destination, says Zhao-Qing Luo, associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University.

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