The type II and tad secretion systems in bacterial pathogenesis

Year of award: 2019


  • Dr Harry Low

    Imperial College London

Project summary

Some bacteria cause infections that kill millions of people annually. The bacteria contain nanomachines in their cell surface that act like miniature pumps that trigger infection. These are secretion systems. One role of secretion systems is to deliver harmful proteins from inside the bacteria to other environments, such as human cells. These harmful proteins act as molecular weaponry. They can form grappling hooks to help the bacteria attach to environments such as the intestine or act as molecular malware that maliciously reprogrammes cells. 

We will use cryo-electron microscopy to visualise the precise position of the atoms within the secretion systems. In this way we can learn the 3D structure and chemistry of the secretion systems. 

Understanding how the secretion systems work will help us develop medicines that stop the secretion systems from causing human illness.