Sweet and sticky: Bacteria use sugars to bind to human cells

December 14, 2015

A team at Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics has made a scientific discovery that will change the way scientists explore vaccine development and drug discovery for infectious diseases.

In a paper published today in prestigious American journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the team led by senior authors Professor Michael Jennings, Professor Victoria Korolik and Associate Professor Renato Morona (University of Adelaide) shows an entirely new way that cells and macromolecules interact together.

Professor Jennings said the paper titled, 'Glycan:glycan interactions: High affinity biomolecular interactions that can mediate binding of pathogenic bacteria to host cells', shows that glycans -- the complex sugar structures on cells linked to the spread of many diseases -- can interact with each other at high affinity. Previous to this paper the interaction was not thought possible, or was considered a weak non-important interaction.

"We have discovered an entirely new way that cells and macromolecules interact with each other through interactions between bacterial glycan and human glycans," he said.

"To develop new drugs and vaccines you have to understand these biological processes and before this we did not know they existed so this finding opens up the opportunity for a range of approaches we can use to block infections."

Professor Jennings said the discovery was also a major contribution to fundamental science as well as the fight against infection disease and it would change the way the scientific community views these interactions in all living systems.

It also paved the way for the National Health and Medical Research Council to award funding of $1,059,344 for further research in this new untapped area.

The discovery was first made by Dr Christopher Day, whose observations couldn't be explained any other way than with the hypothesis that glycans can interact with other glycans at the cellular level.

The team, which also included Michael Apicella from University of Iowa, then set out to show over 60 high-affinity interactions in four different types of bacteria pathogens.

These included Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella typhimurium and Shigella flexneri, which are all food borne bacteria as well as in Haemophilus influenzae, which causes illnesses such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and middle ear infections.

Professor Jennings said this discovery was important in understanding how bacteria cause disease in humans and developing drugs and vaccines to block these interactions.

Institute for Glycomics Director Professor Mark von Itzstein said this ground breaking research by Professor Jennings and his team demonstrates how the Institute makes invaluable contributions to Australian biomedical science and is considered a preeminent biomedical research Institute.

"Our research teams are made up of the best scientists from across the world," he said.

"This is yet another example of the exciting advances towards the discovery of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for significant diseases we are making here in the Institute for Glycomics."
-end-


Griffith University

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.