Meningococci are bacteria that can cause life-threatening meningitis and sepsis. These pathogens use a small protein with a large impact: The RNA-binding protein ProQ is involved in the activation of more than 250 bacterial genes.
The researchers made the discovery using modern high-throughput processes. These methods were developed in Vogel’s group at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) in Würzburg. Vogel is director of HIRI and heads the JMU Institute for Molecular Infection Biology.
The mini-protein belongs to the group of RNA-binding proteins. RNA molecules play an important role as regulators in many biological processes. They often perform their functions in combination with the binding proteins.
ProQ ensures that meningococci can better repair their DNA if damaged and it makes them resistant to oxidative stress. Both these factors contribute significantly to the bacteria’s pathogenic properties.