Research NewsMicrobiology

New Clue to How Anthrax Kills

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Science  01 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5364, pp. 676
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5364.676

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On page 734, a research team reports identifying a possible mechanism of action for "lethal factor" (LF), a toxic protein produced by the anthrax bacillus that is thought to be one of the principal causes of death in infected individuals. The team has found that LF cleaves and inactivates an enzyme in one of the cell's key signaling pathways, the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, which helps control cell growth, embryonic development, and the maturation of oocytes into eggs. The discovery could someday give doctors a new countermeasure against the disease that is directed against the toxin, thereby reducing the threat of its use as a germ warfare agent.