Researchers have discovered new ways that bacteria respond to zinc, a metal that is used by the human immune system to target bacterial pathogens for destruction. Specifically, the researchers demonstrated how a group of Streptococcus utilizes a copper regulator to manage zinc intoxication, and they discovered new genes involved in zinc resistance.
Kelvin Goh, PhD, a research fellow at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and one of the authors of the study, was quoted in the PLOS Pathogens. (Regulatory cross-talk supports resistance to Zn intoxication inStreptococcus).
The work might pave the path for future research that seeks to develop novel methods to manage bacterial infections without relying on antibiotics, which are rapidly becoming obsolete as resistance to them rises.
The streptococci are a large number of bacteria, some of which are excellent, such as those found in yogurts, while others that are harmful, such as those that cause nasty, sometimes fatal infections in humans. The group B Streptococcus (GBS) is usually harmless but may pose significant problems in the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, according to the authors.
Zinc plays an important role in the body's ability to protect against illness. The researchers examined how GBS reacts to zinc exposure and identified a number of ways the bacteria is able to resist metal stress.
Another way bacteria responds to zinc is by using a regulator for another metalcopper (Cu).
According to Matthew Sullivan, PhD, a senior research fellow at Griffith University and one of the authors of the investigation, a genetic switch in [GBS] that normally detects and responds to copper also controls bacteria's responses to zinc.
CopY plays a key role in GBS's intercellular survival in human macrophages and virulence during disseminated infection, according to the authors.
Goh added that the researchers have discovered a number of unknown cell processes that aid in bacteria's survival of zinc and copper stress.
According to the authors, identification of the Zn resistome of GBS using TraDIS revealed a number of genes essential for GBS growth in metal stress. Several of the genes identified are novel to mechanisms that support bacterial survival in metal stress and represent a diverse set of mechanisms that support microbial metal homeostasis during cell stress.
This paper demonstrates that copY controls Streptococcus' distinct Cu and Zn homeostasis and establishes a collection of novel genomic elements that enable the bacteria to survive Zn intoxication.