Researchers at Harvard Medical School, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Georgia have described how the protein that allows strep and staph bacteria to stick to human cells is prepared and packaged. The research, which could facilitate the development of new antibiotics, will appear in the April 6 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
All bacteria have a standard secretion system that allows them to export different types of proteins outside of their cells. An important class of extracellular molecules produced by pathogenic bacteria are adhesins, proteins that enable bacteria to adhere to host cells. For unknown reasons, the SRR (serine-rich-repeat) adhesins of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria — pathogens that can be involved in serious infections such as bacterial meningitis, bacterial pneumonia and pericarditis — are transported through a secretion pathway that is similar to the standard system, but dedicated solely to adhesin.