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Sep 28, 2017
 |  BC Innovations  |  Translation in Brief

Coppering out

How pathogenic bacteria can escape copper toxicity

Two groups have uncovered distinct mechanisms by which bacteria escape copper toxicity, opening multiple avenues for targeting resistant pathogens.

Bacteria use copper to grow, but at high concentrations the metal becomes toxic. To maintain virulence, pathogens need to protect themselves against copper without shutting out the metal completely.

The first group, led by Jeffrey Henderson, published a study in Nature Chemical Biology in July identifying the bacterial siderophore yersiniabactin in overcoming copper stress. Henderson is an assistant professor of medicine and molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Siderophores are iron-scavenging molecules that pathogens secrete to steal enough metal from host cells to grow; multiple academic group are developing therapeutic vaccines against them (see BioCentury Innovations (Jan. 12, 2017)).

However, in 2012 Henderson's team showed that yersiniabactin can also bind copper and sequester it outside of the bacteria, a mechanism the group found allows urinary pathogenic E. coli (UPEC) to avoid...

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