Bacteria

  • A Boost for Photosynthesis

    Cryo-EM structure of the linked complexes of CcmM (red) and Rubisco (green) in liquid droplets (yellow). Formation of this network is the first step in carboxysome biogenesis in cyanobacteria. Illustration: Huping Wang, Andreas Bracher © MPI of Biochemistry

    Photosynthesis is a fundamental biological process which allows plants to use light energy for their growth. Most life forms on Earth are directly or indirectly dependent on photosynthesis. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany have collaborated with colleagues from the Australian National University to study the formation of carboxysomes – a structure that increases the efficiency of photosynthesis in aquatic bacteria. Their results, which were now published in Nature, could lead to the engineering of plants with more efficient photosynthesis and thus higher crop yields.

  • A new study shows how dangerous germs travel as stowaways from one continent to another

    Using a special culture, germs from smears can be recognized and identified. Photo: WWU/H. Dornhege

    As scientists from Münster University, in collaboration with the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, have now demonstrated, toilets at airports are also a “transfer point” for germs. These include germs against which traditional antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial infections are not, or only partially, effective.
    Münster (mfm/sm) – Everyday life at an airport: there’s still time before the jet taking passengers to faraway countries takes off – time enough for a quick visit to the toilet. What awaits passengers there is not always a pleasant sight. However, what they don’t see can be much worse. As scientists from Münster University, in collaboration with the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, have now demonstrated, toilets at airports are also a “transfer point” for germs.

  • Bacteria Free Themselves with Molecular “Speargun”

    Macrophage infected with Francisella novicida (magenta) assembling a dynamic nano-speargun (green). University of Basel, Biozentrum

    Many bacteria are armed with nano-spearguns, which they use to combat unwelcome competitors or knockout host cells. The pathogen responsible for tularemia, a highly virulent infectious disease, uses this weapon to escape from its prison in cells defending the host. Researchers from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel report on this bacterial strategy in the current issue of “Nature Communications”.

    Tularemia is an infectious disease that mostly affects rabbits and rodents, but also humans can become infected. The cause of this serious disease is the bacterium Francisella tularensis.

  • Bacteria supply their allies with munitions

    Vibrio cholerae bacteria (green) recycle T6SS proteins of the attacking sister cells (red) to build their own spear gun (light green intracellular structure). (Image: University of Basel, Biozentrum)

    Bacteria fight their competitors with molecular spear guns, the so-called Type VI secretion system. When firing this weapon they also unintentionally hit their own kind. However, as researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum report in the journal Cell, the related bacteria strains benefit from coming under fire. They recycle the protein components of the spear guns and use these to build their own weapons.

  • Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

    The P domain (yellow) patrols with its mouth open until it encounters a sialic acid molecule (purple). This movement was analyzed with distance measurements using the spin markers shown in blue.  © Dr. Gregor Hagelüken/Uni Bonn

    Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

  • Bakterien aus dem Blut «ziehen»

    Bakterien können mit magnetischer Blutreinigung entfernt werden (links). Eine Lösung mit magnetischen Eisenpartikeln (oben rechts), kann mitt einem Magneten "gereinigt" werden (unten rechts). Empa

    Magnete statt Antibiotika, das könnte eine mögliche neue Behandlungsmethode bei Blutvergiftungen sein. Dazu wird das Blut der Patienten mit magnetischen Eisenpartikeln versetzt, die die Bakterien an sich binden, ehe sie durch Magnete aus dem Blut entfernt werden. Erste Laborversuche sind an der Empa in St. Gallen gelungen – und erfolgversprechend. Blutvergiftungen enden auch heutzutage noch in über 50% der Fälle tödlich, lassen sich aber im Anfangsstadium durchaus kurieren. Daher ist oberstes Gebot, schnell zu handeln. Aus diesem Grund verabreichen Ärzte meist schon bei einem Verdacht auf Blutvergiftung Antibiotika, ohne vorher abzuklären, ob es sich tatsächlich um eine bakterielle Sepsis handelt, was wiederum die Gefahr für Resistenzen massiv erhöht. Es gilt also, eine schnelle und effektive Therapie zu finden, möglichst ohne auf Antibiotika zurückgreifen zu müssen.

  • Big data processing enables worldwide bacterial analysis

    S. Aureus colonies © Nanobay

    Sequencing data from biological samples such as the skin, intestinal tissues, or soil and water are usually archived in public databases. This allows researchers from all over the globe to access them. However, this has led to the creation of extremely large quantities of data. To be able to explore all these data, new evaluation methods are necessary. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a bioinformatics tool which allows to search all bacterial sequences in databases in just a few mouse clicks and find similarities or check whether a particular sequence exists.

  • Biofilms as Construction Workers

    Red algae move towards the light and excrete chains of sugar molecules. By means of time-variable light patterns, the researchers obtain customized templates from these long, fine polymer threads, which they use for functional ceramics. (Photo: v. Opdenbosch/TUM)

    Biofilms are generally seen as a problem to be eradicated due to the hazards they pose for humans and materials. However, these communities of algae, fungi, or bacteria possess interesting properties both from a scientific and a technical standpoint. A team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes processes from the field of biology that utilize biofilms as ‘construction workers’ to create structural templates for new materials that possess the properties of natural materials. In the past, this was only possible to a limited extent.

  • Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (mustard-coloured) engulfed by a red coloured white blood cells (neutrophil granulocyte). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

    Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

  • Cells adapt ultra-rapidly to zero gravity

    Front plate of the experiment equipment. C. Thiel and Airbus DS)

    Mammalian cells fully adapt to zero gravity in less than a minute. Real-time readings on the International Space Station (ISS) reveal that cells compensate ultra-rapidly for changes in gravitational conditions. This new discovery was achieved by an international team headed by scientists at the University of Zurich.

    Mammalian cells are optimally adapted to gravity. But what happens in the microgravity environment of space if the earth’s pull disappears? Previously, many experiments exhibited cell changes – after hours or even days in zero gravity. Astronauts, however, returned to Earth without any severe health problems after long missions in space, which begs the question as to how capable cells are of adapting to changes in gravity.

  • Constricting without a string: Bacteria gone to the worms divide differently

    The rod-shaped bacteria densely populating the surface of the worm belong to the Gammaproteobacteria. These comprise members of our gut microbiome but also some serious pathogens. Nikolaus Leisch

    A new study provides fascinating insights into how bacteria divide. This shows not only how little we know about bacteria outside of the lab, but might also bring us one step closer towards the development of new antibiotics.

  • Deciphering the motility apparatus of bacteria

    Salmonellae with dye-stained flagella. Each colour marks a section of the flagella that grew in a defined time interval (blue: Salmonellae). HZI/Renault et al.

    HZI scientists elucidate how bacteria assemble flagella outside the cell. Many bacteria move by rotating long, thin filaments called flagella. Flagella are made of several tens of thousands building blocks outside the bacterial cell and grow up to ten times longer than the bacterial cell body. They allow bacteria to swim towards a nutrient source or to approach cells of the human mucosa in order to infect them. This means that flagella are also tools in infection processes and might be suitable as potential targets for new agents against pathogenic bacteria.

  • Dissecting bacterial infections at the single-cell level

    Left: a macrophage (nucleus in blue) infected with a non-replicating bacteria in yellow indicated by an arrow and on the right infected with bacteria that has replicated (red). (Picture: Antoine-Emmanuel Saliba)

    Technological advances are making the analysis of single bacterial infected human cells feasible, Würzburg researchers have used this technology to provide new insight into the Salmonella infection process. The study has just been published in “Nature Microbiology”. Infectious diseases are a leading cause of mortality worldwide. The development of novel therapies or vaccines requires improved understanding of how viruses, pathogenic fungi or bacteria cause illnesses.

  • Ectoine reduces chronic lung inflammation: A new therapeutic approach against COPD

    Illustration depicting bronchoconstriction

    Researchers at the IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine demonstrate for the first time the efficacy of the natural compound ectoine against chronic lung inflammation in an inhalation study with female volunteers from the industrial Ruhr region. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to world health organization (WHO), is currently the third leading cause of death.

  • EU funds research on biofuels and infectious diseases

    Salmolla. © Goethe University Frankfurt.

    FRANKFURT. Two ERC Advanced Investigator Grants of the European Research Council to the amount of € 2.5 million each are going to researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt. Biochemist and physician Professor Ivan Dikic and microbiologist Professor Volker Müller are very honoured that their pioneering research projects have been selected for this substantial financial support.

    Volker Müller is one of the leading microbiologists worldwide in the field of microbial metabolism of microbes that grow in the absence of oxygen. His project centres on the production of biofuels with the help of bacteria that can use carbon dioxide as feedstock.

  • Faster diagnosis of sepsis pathogens

    High-throughput sequencing of sepsis pathogens at Fraunhofer IGB. Fraunhofer IGB

    Microbial pathogens can be diagnosed unambiguously and within just 24 hours by means of high-throughput sequencing of their genetic makeup and special bioinformatics evaluation algorithms. Fraunhofer researchers have validated this in a clinical study with sepsis patients. The researchers present the NGS diagnosis platform at Medica in Düsseldorf from November 14–17, 2016. It is estimated that in Germany alone around 150,000 people fall ill with sepsis every year; despite medical advances, between 30 and 50 percent of the patients still die of the consequences. One of the reasons for the high mortality rate: the diagnosis often comes too late for the lifesaving therapy with antibiotics that only combat the specific causative pathogen.

  • Fewer Laboratory Animals Thanks to Secondary Nanobodies

    Three-dimensional structure of a nanobody. Tino Pleiner and Sergei Trakhanov / MPI for Biophysical Chemistry

    Antibodies are indispensable in biological research and medical diagnostics. However, their production is time-consuming, expensive, and requires the use of many animals. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, have now developed so-called secondary nanobodies that can replace the most-used antibodies and may drastically reduce the number of animals in antibody production. This is possible because the secondary nanobodies can be produced in large scale by bacteria. Moreover, the secondary nanobodies outperform their traditional antibody counterparts in key cell-biological applications.

  • For Bacteria, the Neighbors Co-determine Which Cell Dies First: The Physiology of Survival

    Co-author Elena Biselli at the microscope. Image: A. Heddergott / TUM

    Bacteria do not simply perish in hunger phases fortuitously; rather, the surrounding cells have a say as well. A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now discovered that two factors, above all, decide over life and death: the energy required to continue living and the efficiency with which surviving cells can recycle biomass from dead cells.

  • Hannover Messe: Triple treatment for heat-exchangers

    New nano-coatings have an anti-adhesive, anti-corrosive and antimicrobial effect. Source: Ollmann

    INM - Leibniz Institute for New Materials is introducing new nano-coatings that reduce the effort required for cleaning heat exchangers as well as their corrosion. In these new coatings, the research scientists combine antiadhesive, anticorrosive and, on demand, also antimicrobial properties.

    When processing milk and juice, the food industry is using heat exchangers in numerous steps throughout the process. To have no risk to the consumers, heat exchangers have to be free from microbes. Especially in the numerous grooves and recesses of the heat exchanger, persistent biofilms can remain stuck. As a result, heat exchangers must be cleaned at regular intervals using aggressive chemicals.

  • High-speed camera snaps bio-switch in action

    The riboswitch 'button' before, during and after coupling of the ligand (green), from left to right. Credit: Yun-Xing Wang and Jason Stagno, National Cancer Institute

    X-ray experiment opens new route to study biochemical reactions. With a powerful X-ray camera, scientists have watched a genetic switch at work for the first time. The study led by Yun-Xing Wang from the National Cancer Institute of the U.S. reveals the ultrafast dynamics of a riboswitch, a gene regulator that can switch individual genes on and off. The innovative technique used for this investigation opens up a completely new avenue for studying numerous fundamental biochemical reactions, as the team reports in a fast-track publication in the journal Nature.