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Studies show a pathway for imported proteins through cell membrane that can be hijacked by toxins

Posted December 19, 2014

Two teams of researchers have been looking into the ways that toxins can fool cell membranes into gaining access, thereby allowing for human ailments such as cholera. One team describes a pathway that is independent of the clathrin protein while the second team shows that such a pathway can be hijacked by toxins such as the bacteria responsible for cholera. Both teams have published their findings in the journalNature.

Studies show a pathway for imported proteins through cell membrane that can be hijacked by toxins

EndoA2 localization to endocytic pathways. Credit: Nature (2014) doi:10.1038/nature14064

One of the ways our bodies try to keep us healthy is by maintaining a plasma membrane around every one of our cells—the membrane’s job is to keep out harmful substances while allowing those that are beneficial to pass through—no easy feat. One of the ways the membrane does this job is through a protein called clathrin—the process by which it does so, under normal conditions, is called clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME). In this new effort, one team has found that there is a clathrin independent process whereby proteins are allowed to enter cells—they’ve named it fast endophilin-mediated endocytosis (FEME), while the other team has found that some bacteria are able to take advantage of this process to create channels to get inside cells and cause problems.

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