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Professor Mark Sansom, Head of Department
All change for bacterial outer membrane proteins
Structures of two colicins bound to the OMP receptors that were tracked in the present work (Click to enlarge)
The discovery of how a group of bacteria can rapidly adapt to changing growth conditions could have implications for future antibiotic development.
The findings come from a long-standing project between Colin Kleanthous at the University of Oxford and Christoph Baumann at the University of York. Together with lead author Patrice Rassam and key collaborators Mark Sansom at Oxford and Jacob Piehler at the University of Osnabrück, they describe their work in a paper in Nature (1).
Gram-negative bacteria are a major cause of disease, in part because they have a robust outer membrane that protects against the immune system and certain antibiotics. They can live in a broad range of environments, which for E.coli includes river water as well as humans and animals.
The bacteria have intricate regulatory mechanisms for ensuring they have the right complement of outer membrane proteins – known as OMPs – for a particular habitat. But little is known about how OMPs are replaced in the outer membrane when large scale remodelling of these proteins has to occur on adapting to changes in growth conditions.
The new research describes how bacteria are able to change the proteins in their outer membrane and how this is intimately linked to the process of protein insertion in the membrane.