Scientists see detailed makeup of deadly toxin for the first time
Leicester scientists have for the first time created a detailed image of a toxin - called pneumolysin - associated with deadly infections such as bacterial pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.
The three-year study involving four research groups from across the University has been described as an exciting advance because it points to the possibility of creating therapeutics that block assembly of pneumolysin pores to treat people with pneumococcal disease. The University has recently set up a company Axendos Therapeutics to pursue this aim.
Using a technique called X-ray crystallography at Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron science facility, the Leicester team was able to see the individual atoms of the toxin. The structure not only reveals what the toxin looks like, but also shows how it assembles on the surface of cells to form lethal pores.
Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, the University of Leicester research published in Scientific Reports was led by Professor Russell Wallis of the Departments of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and Molecular and Cell Biology and Professor Peter Andrew, Head of Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.
Watch a video of Leicester researchers discussing the research below:
Marshall, J. E. et al. The Crystal Structure of Pneumolysin at 2.0 Å Resolution
Reveals the Molecular Packing of the Pre-pore Complex. Sci. Rep. 5, 13293; doi: 10.1038/srep13293 (2015).