A protein in the flesh-eating bacteria binds to human cells to allow invasion by having a 3D structure stabilized by an additional covalent bond.

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"While many people carry Streptococcus pyogenes in their throat without any problems, the bacteria can cause infections. Some are mild, like impetigo in infants or a sore throat, but some can kill, like toxic shock syndrome or flesh-eating disease.

"What attracted the biochemists’ [Mark Howarth and Bijan Zakeri from Oxford University] interest was a specific protein which the bacteria use to bind and invade human cells.

"‘The protein is special because it naturally reacts with itself and forms a lock,’ says Mark.

"All proteins consist of amino acids linked together into long chains by strong covalent bonds. The long chains are folded and looped up into three-dimensional structures held together by weaker links and associations.

"The protein FbaB from S. pyogenes has a 3D structure that is stabilised by another covalent bond. This strong chemical bond forms in an instant and binds the loops of the amino acid chain together with exceptional strength." (Wood 2012)

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References

"The bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes causes a range of illnesses, from sore throats to life-threatening necrotizing fasciitis, also known as 'flesh-eating bacteria syndrome.' While most organisms stabilize proteins by disulfide bonds (-S-S-), Streptococcus pyogenes grows well in low oxygen environments, where it is hard to form such bonds. Like a number of other bacterial species, Streptococcus pyogenes has evolved a special chemistry which endows some of its proteins with high stability (1): two amino acid side chains spontaneously react to form an amide bond (between lysine and aspartic acid or asparagine) (2). This reaction irreversibly locks together distant parts of the protein." (Zakeri et al. 2012:4347)

Journal article
Peptide tag forming a rapid covalent bond to a protein, through engineering a bacterial adhesinProceedings of the National Academy of SciencesFebruary 25, 2012
B. Zakeri, J. O. Fierer, E. Celik, E. C. Chittock, U. Schwarz-Linek, V. T. Moy, M. Howarth

Journal article
Peptide tag forming a rapid covalent bond to a protein, through engineering a bacterial adhesinProceedings of the National Academy of SciencesFebruary 25, 2012
B. Zakeri, J. O. Fierer, E. Celik, E. C. Chittock, U. Schwarz-Linek, V. T. Moy, M. Howarth


Flesh-eating bacteria inspire superglue

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Living System/s

Organism
Streptococcus pyogenesGenus

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