Biology

The bacteria that uses poisoned arrowheads

At a time in history when bacteria resistance to antibiotics is increasing, research into new antibiotic formulas is of vital importance.

A new study published in Cell Report has found that Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses a defense system similar to that of ancient human wars. This bacterium is capable of firing “poison arrows” that are capable of destroying the morphology of the rival cell.

This defense system has been discovered by a team of researchers from Imperial College who trust it to be useful for developing new antibiotics. In nature, this system allows bacteria to better compete for space and food, allowing them to thrive.

How does this poisoned arrow work as an antibiotic?

Actually this poison arrow that I have named so to make it easier to imagine, actually uses the Type VI Secretion System (T6SS) which consists of a molecular crossbow that launches toxic packages at rival bacteria .

The toxic arrowhead of Pseudomonas aeruginosa has a toxin called VgrG2b at its tip. This toxin is a periplasmic protein that is made up of an enzyme from a well-known family: zinc-metallopeptidases, which are responsible for cutting proteins.

When this toxin is fired at a rival bacteria, this toxin targets the cell membrane, reaching the space between the outer and inner membrane and surrounding the cell wall. In this way, a morphological alteration is created in the membrane.

The cell membrane is very important to protect the cell and this toxin prevents the cell from dividing, so with its growth, there comes a point where the cell explodes because it cannot divide.

This is a system similar to how beta-lactam antibiotics work, such as penicillin, a family of antibiotics to which bacteria are too resistant.

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