The Protein That Zaps Toxins

Researchers from Ohio State have discovered how a small protein in the immune system can disable dangerous bacterial toxins.

The toxins have surfaces that help the bacteria to stay alive. At the same time, though, the pliability of the surfaces make the toxins vulnerable to the immune-system proteins called defensins.

Defensins, peptides that consist of about 30 amino acids, bind to the toxins, making them useless. Until this newest study, scientists have known that defensins can neutralize bacteria, but the newest study explains exactly how they do it.

According to a news release from the university, the researchers confirmed the mechanism by conducting experiments using a single type of defensin to combat toxins linked to infectious bacteria.

Lead author Elena Kudryashova, a research scientist in chemistry and biochemistry, explained that the defensins “integrate into the toxin in such a way that means it basically cannot accomplish its functions.”

“An important part of our findings is that the defensin offers universal protection. Not every single toxin will be affected, but many toxins will,” said Dmitri Kudryashov, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

The research team, whose findings were published in the journal Immunity, is now testing defensins’ effectiveness against viral proteins.

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