Scientists have discovered a protein that controls gene expression in response to copper in the bacterium that causes most cases of tuberculosis and potentially a wide variety of other bacteria. These findings, reported in the January 2007 issue of Nature Chemical Biology, explain how many bacteria control copper concentrations within cells and this understanding could help in the design of new treatments for tuberculosis.
Copper is an essential element, but the levels within a cell must be carefully controlled as too much can cause cell death. Copper ions are prevented from damaging the cell by regulatory proteins that trap the metal. However, a mechanism for controlling the expression of these proteins had not previously been identified in many bacteria. Giedroc and colleagues have discovered a protein -- CsoR -- that regulates the expression of the copper-binding proteins and is present in many types of bacteria.
The discovery of a common copper-sensitive repressor helps scientists to understand how bacteria control concentrations of metals, and may provide a novel target for designing antibiotics to treat diseases including tuberculosis.
David Giedroc (Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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