Scientists discover how Tc toxins inject bacterial toxins
Bacteria have developed many different ways of smuggling their toxic cargo into cells. Tripartite Tc toxin complexes, which are used by bacteria like the plague pathogen Yersinia pestis and the insect pathogen Photorhabdus luminescens, are particularly unusual. Stefan Raunser from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund and his colleagues from the University of Freiburg have produced extremely accurate and detailed images of these “toxic injections”; they reveal from where the molecule complexes take the energy to penetrate the cell membrane. These proteins have potential applications in medicine and could, for example, selectively deposit drugs in cancer cells.