A previously unidentified protein is giving researchers clues on how to prevent food diseases.health and fitness Updated: Feb 02, 2004 19:42 IST
A previously unidentified protein on the surface of intestinal cells is giving Purdue University researchers clues on how to prevent disease.
The scientists believe their results eventually could lead to a way to prevent food-borne Listeria monocytogenes infection, which has a 20 percent fatality rate, as well as other diseases. The study of the bacteria is reported in the February issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.
"This research reveals a detailed mechanism that allows interaction of Listeria with a cell-surface protein, or receptor, on intestinal cells," said Arun Bhunia, a Department of Food Science microbiologist. "Knowing the entryway into the cell will allow us in the future to develop a method to prevent that interaction."
Jennifer Wampler, a postdoctoral student and lead author of the study, said, "Listeria often is implicated in patients with weakened immune systems, so we think that this research could also give us clues as to how other diseases work. This receptor is not unique for Listeria, so it also could be used by other organisms to take advantage and get inside a host cell to cause disease."
Bacteria have proteins, called ligands that bind with a protein molecule, or receptor, on cells in the body, which is like placing a key in a lock. This interaction opens the door that leads to a complicated series of biochemical reactions. These reactions allow the pathogen to enter cells, in this case in the intestine, and then move on into the liver, spleen, brain or placenta, causing illness and possibly death.
Listeria is especially dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly and those with immuno-comprised diseases such as HIV. The infection can cause meningitis, brain-stem encephalitis and spontaneous abortion.
The Purdue team placed a Listeria protein known to bind with human host cells in a laboratory dish with human intestinal cells. They found that the bacteria's ligand bound with an intestinal cell surface protein, which they identified as heat shock protein 60 (Hsp60).
Heat shock proteins are found in most cells. They are called chaperone proteins because they help other proteins stay organized when cells face any type of stress. Until recently, it was believed these proteins were only found in the mitochondria, the cells' engines.
Now, that researchers know that these proteins also are found on cell surfaces and act as receptors, they will begin investigating how to control the infection process.