Key protein helps bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease to set up house in host cells

An article by ‘’ reports research into a protein that can help host harmful bacteria in cells. The article reports as follows:

Scientists at UT Southwestern have discovered a key protein that helps the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease to set up house in the cells of humans and other hosts. The findings, published in Science, could offer insights into how other bacteria are able to survive inside cells, knowledge that could lead to new treatments for a wide variety of infections.

“Many infectious bacteria, from listeria to chlamydia to salmonella, use systems that allow them to dwell within their host’s cells. Better understanding the tools they use to make this happen is teaching us some interesting biochemistry and could eventually lead to new targets for therapy.”

Vincent Tagliabracci, Ph.D., study leader, assistant professor of molecular biology at UTSW and member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Tagliabracci’s lab studies atypical kinases, unusual forms of enzymes that transfer chemical groups called phosphates onto proteins or lipids, changing their function. Research here and elsewhere has shown that Legionella, the genus of bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease, is a particularly rich source of these non-canonical kinases. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in the U.S. in 2018, though the true incidence is believed to be higher.

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