Researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor made an interesting discovery using the bacteria Escherichia coli. These findings, which were published in Molecular Cell, state that a protein - CsgC - present in E. coli hinders harmful amyloids from accumulating. These amyloids are present in diseases that affect the brain, like Parkinson’s.
Amyloids are formed when proteins fold in the wrong way and when they link up at the wrong time or place. Eventually, this causes degradation of brain tissue which leads to cellular death. These research findings could potentially lead to a new therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases that are associated with or caused by amyloids.
The Relationship between E. coli and Amyloids
In neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, amyloids are thought to be the cause of brain cell damage and death. However, in other cells such as those in E. coli, amyloids are actually used for the proper functioning of the cell. E. coli make something called curli on the surface of their cells where amyloids are used as a protective barrier rather than a toxic substance.
Use of E. coli Curli
The curli in E. coli are what the bacteria use to attach themselves to the lining of the digestive tract to cause illness in humans. The amyloids that are produced by this bacteria are not made inside the cell so they are not harmful to the bacteria. In fact, E. coli inhibits the production of amyloid inside cells and researchers hope to learn about this process so that it could be used to prevent amyloids from forming inside human brain tissue. It is also thought that curli could be used to attack biofilms so bacteria become less resistant to drug therapy.