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Crop Biotech Update

Purdue Biologists Elucidate Bacterial Infection

July 29, 2011

Purdue University biologists identified a new technique on how bacteria hijack healthy cells during infection through an enzyme used by bacterium Legionella pneumophila, which is the causative agent of Lagionnaires' disease. Zhao-Qing Luo, team leader of the study, said that Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia, thus his findings could help design a new therapy that will save lives and at the same time provide an insight on the mechanism of both bacterial infection and cell signaling events in higher organisms including humans.

According to Luo, L. pneumophila successfully infects a cell when certain proteins are delivered into the host cells that change different functions to alter the naturally hostile environment into one that is conducive to bacterial replication. Those proteins tap into existing communication processes within the cells in which an external signal, such as a hormone, activates a cascade of minor modifications to proteins that eventually turns on a gene that changes the cell's behavior.

The signaling pathway involved was only recently discovered, and the study by Luo and graduate student Yunhao Tan also contributes to the information about the pathway. The results of their study is published in the current issue of Nature journal.

Read the news release at Subscribers of Nature can download the research article at