Researchers want to harness the tail produced by bacteria for science

Researchers led by a team from the Berkeley Laboratory want to use nanomachines produced by bacteria to help fight bad cells within the human body. Nanoparticles are called Tailocins and are described as powerful protein nanomachines made by bacteria. Researchers say they resemble phages but lack a capsid, which is the head of the phage that contains viral DNA and a reproductive mechanism.

Researcher Vivek Motalek of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studies tail and phages and say They are like pulsed needles that sit on a target cell and appear to pierce all the way through the cell membrane creating a hole in the cytoplasm causing the cell to lose ions and contents, and ultimately the cell collapses. A group of bacteria can produce tellocinate under conditions of stress.

Tailocins are only lethal to certain bacterial strains, which results in them earning the nickname “bacterial guided missiles”. Tailocins appears to be a tool that bacteria use to compete with competitors. They are similar enough to the phages that scientists believe evolved from DNA that was originally inserted into the bacterial genome during a viral infection.

Interestingly, the bacteria are killed if they produce tylocins as if they were infected with the phage virus. Bacterial death occurs because the pointed nanomachines erupt from the membrane to exit the producing cell just as the proliferating viral particles do. Once released, the tail tail targets specific strains that preserve other cells. Currently, scientists do not understand how this phenomenon occurs in nature.

Researchers also don’t understand how the tail stabbing needle piston works. There are many potential uses for Tailocins, so research in the area is ongoing. Scientists once thought Tailocins might be a useful alternative to traditional antibiotics. Research is also being done into harnessing Tailocins to improve the study of the microbiome.

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