Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mucking In

Harmful bacteria enter gut cells via protein interactions – clues for blocking infection

01 April 2019

Mucking In

Lining the inside of our guts, intestinal epithelial cells are exposed to any pathogens we might ingest. A layer of protective mucus, made up of proteins and antibodies, shields them from attack, yet the common food borne bacterium Salmonella enterica can still find a way through. Transmembrane mucins, proteins that lie across the membrane of epithelial cells, create an important barrier, but one of these, MUC1, can be hijacked by Salmonella. Recent research found that cells possessing MUC1 (pictured, with nuclei in blue, MUC1 in green), are much more vulnerable to invasion by Salmonella (in red) than cells without. Salmonella gains entry into epithelial cells thanks to the interaction between MUC1 and one of its own adhesins, surface proteins used by bacteria to attach themselves to potential hosts. Without this protein, named SiiE, Salmonella cannot invade cells through this route, suggesting that treatments targeting SiiE could block this pathway for infection.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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