"It is essential that we pursue new vaccines and therapies to control anthrax, a highly lethal bacterial infection and a potential bioweapon," says Dr. Blaser. "Now that we know that anthrax has a quorum-sensing system it may be possible to develop specific antagonists or inhibitors," he says.
Previously, a quorum-sensing system had not been identified in Bacillus anthracis, the scientific name for anthrax. The School of Medicine researchers now describe such a system in a study appearing in the July issue of the journal Infection and Immunity, published by the American Society for Microbiology.
In the study, the NYU researchers identify a gene, called luxS, in the anthrax bacterium, which is part of a quorum-sensing system. They show that this molecule is necessary for the robust growth of the bacterium in test tubes. The lux pathway was first identified in bioluminescent bacteria, which allows the bacteria to glow under certain conditions. The researchers demonstrate that anthrax has such a pathway through a series of experiments using Vibrio harveyi, a bioluminescent bacterium, to detect the signal produced by the anthrax bacteria.
Microbiologists had once considered bacteria to be fairly simple single-cell organisms that lacked sophisticated signaling systems found in multi-celled animals. Over the last 30 years, this notion has been overturned completel
Contact: Jennifer Choi
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine