Newcastle University scientists have revealed the mechanism that causes a slime to form, making bacteria hard to shift and resistant to antibiotics. When under threat, some bacteria can shield themselves in a slimy protective layer, known as a biofilm. It is made up of communities of bacteria held together to protect themselves from attack. Biofilms cause dental plaque and sinusitis; in healthcare, biofilms can lead to life threatening and difficult-to-treat infections, particularly on medical implants such as catheters, heart valves, artificial hips, and even breast implants. They also they coat the outside of ships and boats polluting the water. The article was published in the April 12, 2013 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and was cited as the “paper of the week.” In the article, the research team reveals how a molecular switch regulates biofilm formation. This new understanding could help identify a new target for antibiotics and prevent other biofilms from forming. In order to thwart them from causing disease and biopollution, a Newcastle University team has been studying at the molecular level how bacteria form biofilms in the first instance. They reveal how the master regulator of biofilm formation, a protein called SinR, acts in the model bacterium, Bacillus subtilis. Dr. Richard Lewis, Professor of Structural Biology in the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences who led the research, said, “SinR is a bit like a rocker switch, a domestic light switch for instance. In the "down" position, when SinR is bound to DNA, the proteins required to make a biofilm are turned off and the bacteria are free to move.
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