M. tuberculosis is dangerous because it hides and persists in the immune cells of our bodies. "It can only persist there because of the activity of key molecules," says Matthias Wilmanns, Head of EMBL Hamburg. "We are investigating the functions of tuberculosis proteins and determining their atomic structures, in hopes of finding weak points and new inhibitors."
A protein called LipB is essential for the organism because it activates cellular machines that drive the bacterium's metabolism. Stefan Kaufmann's department at the MPIIB has specialised in the biology of M. tuberculosis infection and its ability to survive in immune cells. They discovered that LipB is highly active in acutely infected cells, particularly in patients infected by multidrug-resistant forms of M. tuberculosis.
"In these cells we see a 70-fold increase in the production of LipB when compared to other cells," says Stefan Kaufmann, Director at the MPIIB. "This strongly indicates an involvement in pathogenesis and makes it a particularly interesting target where traditional drugs have lost their efficacy."
A structural picture of the protein - a kind of technical diagram of its building plan - h
Contact: Anna-Lynn Wegener
European Molecular Biology Laboratory