Autophagy is a detox process of recycling cellular material in the body, where damaged cells get cleaned up, and new ones regenerate. Scientists who studied how autophagy can get rid of bacteria, and prevent developing diseases have revealed that Salmonella and other pathogens could be combated by autophagy.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Dr Ioannis Nezis from the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, and Dr Tamas Korscmaros from Earlham Institute and Quadram Institute, Norwich, UK screened the proteome from 56 pathogenic bacterial species - to see how autophagy reacts with them.
‘The study’s finding could pave the way for identifying natural products that can boost autophagy and reduce the likelihood of acquiring infections as well as treating them.’
Some of the 56 species screened included Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus. They identified how host cells use autophagy to clear invading bacteria, but also how bacteria use their proteins to escape this clearance.
They found that host cells use autophagy to target specific bacterial proteins for recycling. These bacterial proteins could be used by the bacteria to help them escape their clearance.
Salmonella is a food born pathogenic bacterium and it is the second most common cause of childhood mortality in the developing world. Understanding how host cells sense and combat Salmonella infection would lead to new therapies. They identified Salmonella YhjJ protein which interacts with autophagy protein LC3 and can cleave other autophagy proteins to inhibit their function.
Dr Ioannis Nezis commented: "Our systems-level analysis has highlighted the complex interplay between host autophagy and bacteria to inspire future experimental studies to elucidate the detailed molecular mechanisms of autophagy in the pathogenesis of bacterial infections.
"With drug resistance being on the rise worldwide, bacterial infections pose one of the greatest global threats to human health. Using activators of autophagy with antibiotics, as antibiotic resistance breakers, would be a very promising way to fight bacterial infections"
Research can now look at identifying natural products that can boost autophagy and decrease the likelihood of developing infections as well as treating them.