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Spring-Loaded Poison Daggers

February 27, 2012

Bacteria have evolved different systems for secreting proteins into the fluid around them or into other cells. Some, for example, have syringe-like exterior structures that can pierce other cells and inject proteins. Another system, called a type VI secretion system, is found in about a quarter of all bacteria with two membranes. Despite being common, researchers have not understood how it works. Now a team, co-led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, has figured out the structure of the type VI secretion system apparatus and proposed how it might work — by shooting spring-loaded poison molecular daggers.  Credit: Nature/Everett Kane/M. Basler/M. Pilhofer/G.P. Henderson/G.J. Jensen/J. Mekalanos



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