New strategy to combat cystitis

One in three women will be faced at least once in her life with cystitis, for some the start of a constantly recurring infection. Cystitis is caused by Escherichia coli bacteria which fasten on to the wall of the bladder by means of thread-like structures (pili). Han Remaut of the VIB Department for Structural Biology Brussels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel reveals for the first time the complex interactions which lead to the formation of these pili. This knowledge can be used to develop new antibiotics to treat infections of the urinary tract.

Cystitis

Around 80% of infections of the urinary tract are caused by the Escherichia coli bacteria, gram-negative rod-like bacteria. Although these bacteria form part of normal intestinal flora, virulent types can penetrate the bladder via the urethra and lead to urinary tract infections. These infections occur more often in women than in men and account for a large number of hospital-acquired infections, especially in the case of catheterized patients. Treatment consists of using existing antibiotics. However, the current generation of antibiotics is losing its power to fight these bacteria. Especially problematic are recurrent infections. There is an urgent need for new antibiotics.

Bacteria adhere to the cells of the urinary bladder

Bacteria can adhere to a surface due to their hair-like structures, known as pili or fimbriae. In the case of uropathogenic E. coli, type 1 pili occur which consist of four different sub-entities. The biosynthesis (formation) of these pili takes place through a conserved mechanism (the /usher biosynthesis route). As type 1 pili are responsible for the uropathogenic E. coli adhering to the host cells, these are promising targets for new antibacterials.

Structural biological techniques to investigate pili formation

Han Remaut, together with colleagues working for the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University of London, is investigating the mechanism responsible for the biosynthesis of these pili. For this purpose, they are using X-ray diffraction - the standard technique for determining the structure of proteins. Detailed knowledge about the structure of proteins is necessary to gain an insight into how they function.

Han Remaut and colleagues were the first to successfully image the assembly complex leading to pili biosynthesis. Furthermore, this is also the first snapshot of a protein transporter in action.

New antibiotics for the treatment of infections of the urinary tract

This detailed knowledge about the biosynthesis of type 1 pili from E. coli can form the basis for the development of medicines which block the formation of the pili. If bacteria can no longer cling to the epithelial cells of the bladder, they will no longer be able to cause an . The mechanism responsible for E.coli attaching to the bladder is also used by other . As a result, this research can also contribute to the fight against other infectious diseases such as food poisoning or traveler's diarrhea.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Mutation may cause early loss of sperm supply

4 minutes ago

Brown University biologists have determined how the loss of a gene in male mice results in the premature exhaustion of their fertility. Their fundamental new insights into the complex process of sperm generation ...

No more bleeding for 'iron overload' patients?

2 hours ago

Hemochromatosis (HH) is the most common genetic disorder in the western world, and yet is barely known. Only in the US 1 in 9 people carry the mutation (although not necessarily the disease).

3-D printing offers innovative method to deliver medication

7 hours ago

3-D printing could become a powerful tool in customizing interventional radiology treatments to individual patient needs, with clinicians having the ability to construct devices to a specific size and shape. That's according ...

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.