Issue Date: June 11, 2007
Mousing out pathogens
By making a tiny tweak to the human food-borne pathogen that causes listeriosis, German scientists have created a strain that can infect mice (Cell 2007, 129, 891). Andreas Lengeling and Wolf-Dieter Schubert of the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, in Braunschweig, say that their rationally redesigned strain of Listeria monocytogenes will allow them to study the disease in an easy-to-handle lab animal. Guided by the structure of the curved L. monocytogenes invasion protein InlA bound to its human intestinal receptor (shown), the researchers mutated two key amino acids in InlA. The mutant InlA binds more tightly to the human receptor (gray) than the wild-type protein and also binds to the previously incompatible mouse version of the receptor. Upon ingestion, L. monocytogenes bearing the substitutions infect mice, providing a mouse model of the disease that the authors are using to study why pregnant women are more susceptible to listeriosis.
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