December 9, 2008

Quirky virus may aid E. coli treatment

U.S. university researchers say they've uncovered clues from a virus quirk that may lead to new ways to kill E. coli bacteria, which can be fatal to humans.

The team from Penn State University said they learned how and why a particular virus injects an RNA polymerase -- an enzyme catalyzing polymer -- into an E. coli bacterial cell, the university said in a new release. The results help advance understanding of infection tactics used by viruses attacking bacterial cells -- which may lead to new ways to treat E. coli.

Most phages inject only their own DNA into bacterial cells, said study leader Katsu Murakami, an assistant professor in the university's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

By contrast, the N4 virus injects its own RNA polymerase into bacterial cells, finds the N4 DNA and initiates a process that creates new N4 phage proteins, Murakami said.

The N4 virus injects its own RNA polymerase, which is a type of protein, into the E. coli cell. This system could be replicated and used to deliver proteins or drugs that kill the bacterium, Murakami said.

The findings were published in the journal Molecular Cell.