Washington: Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the bacterium that causes tuberculosis – has an ingenious mechanism to defend itself against oxygen attack by our immune system, researchers have found.This knowledge is important in the search for a treatment for tuberculosis.“We have discovered how Mycobacterium survives the oxygen stress in our body, namely with the aid of the protein mycoredoxin-1. This opens up a whole new field of research into the role of this protein during a tuberculosis infection. A better understanding of this mechanism will enable us to combat this bacterium more selectively,” said lead investigator Joris Messens (VIB / Vrije Universiteit Brussel).Oxygen is essential for the respiration of nearly all cells. They use this gas to burn sugars in order to produce energy. However, oxygen is also very aggressive and can seriously affect proteins – the building blocks of the cell – in a manner similar to rust or oxidation of iron.Our immune system uses reactive oxygen molecules in the defence against intruders, for example against Mycobacterium. Proteins are particularly sensitive to the effects of oxygen (oxidation). Proteins with sulphur-containing components are particularly sensitive and become inactive with oxidation.
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