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In recently published research into the regulatory mechanisms of a disease bacterium often found in the human body, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Associate Professor of Bacteriology Erin Murphy, Ph.D., and her team didn't find what they went looking for. What they did find, however, opens more research pathways, suggesting science has more to learn about the tools different bacterial pathogens use to adapt to changes in their environment.
Murphy is a member of both the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute and Ohio's interdisciplinary Molecular and Cellular Biology Program (MCB). She and her research team—including collaborators from Ohio University, Egypt and Germany—were trying to identify a temperature-sensitive mechanism that regulates gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus. This is the well-known bacterium many people carry in their nostrils that sometimes penetrates further into the body, causing harmful infections.
S - Moves - Nose - Body - Surroundings
As S. aureus moves from the nose to inside the body, its surroundings get warmer. In some bacteria, such a temperature increase triggers changes in gene expression that may better equip the germ to survive in its new environment—which is bad health news for the human whose body the staph has invaded.
Temperature-sensing regulators called "RNA thermometers," found in the structure of the messenger RNA molecule (which transmits genetic information from DNA), have been discovered in other bacteria. For instance, Murphy and her collaborators have identified such a mechanism in the Shigella bacterium.
Something - S - Mechanism - Changes - Way
They set out to find something similar in S. aureus. Instead, they found a mechanism that responds to temperature changes in the opposite way to RNA thermometers previously encountered—instead of increasing expression of a gene as temperature goes up, this mechanism increased expression as temperature drops. The gene in this case controls production of a protein called CidA.
This is only the second such RNA "thermosensor"—one responding to drops rather than rises in temperature—ever...
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