UND scientists find another way bacteria needle us

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News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When harmful bacteria invade the body, the immune system recognizes the chemical flags or antigens on the surface of bacterial cells that tell the immune system the cells are foreign. The immune system mounts a defense to attack and repel the infection.

Danielle Jessen, Matthew Nilles, and David Bradley

A University of North Dakota research team, led by Associate Professor Matthew Nilles, PhD; Assistant Professor Danielle Jessen, PhD; and Associate Professor David Bradley, PhD, in the Department of Basic Sciences at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, reports they have discovered that a molecular "needle" found on the surface of a group of bacteria signals the body's immune system it is under attack by a virulent family of bacteria that includes the flea-borne pest that causes the plague and other bacteria that are the culprits in contaminated food and produce that cause mild to severe cases of diarrhea or dysentery.

Their research was recently published in Infection and Immunity, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The significance of the researchers' work led to the journal accepting their submission in eight days. The normal time between submission and acceptance of papers is six to eight weeks.

"This work expands our knowledge on how the body recognizes the presence of bacteria," Nilles said. "Our research could lead to the identification of vaccine candidates and therapeutic targets."

"Understanding how the host immune system may respond differently to the needles from different bacteria may provide insight into how certain bacteria are able to 'fly under the radar' during early infection, while others are detected very early," Bradley said. "Understanding these differences in the early, or innate, immune response could lead to better methods to prevent or treat certain bacterial infections."

Nilles and his laboratory, in continuing collaboration with Bradley's laboratory, now plan to explore the specifics of how the needles from different types of bacteria interact with the immune system.

Funding for Nilles and his team was provided by a University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences faculty seed grant and by Novadigm, Inc.

The research paper titled "Type III Secretion Needle Proteins Induce Cell Signaling and Cytokine Secretion via Toll-Like Receptors" is available online at http://iai.asm.org/content/82/6/2300.full.pdf.