Mycobacteria

Bacteria scrimp and save themselves

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Science  22 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6199, pp. 887-888
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6199.887-f

Proteasomes are large protein complexes that degrade cellular proteins. Although widely conserved in mammals, only some bacteria species have machinery resembling the mammalian system (called Pup in bacteria). But why? In Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pup contributes to virulence. Elharar et al. now report that in order to survive starvation, non-virulent mycobacteria need Pup too. If nitrogen supplies are low (nitrogen is key for mycobacteria growth), the Pup machinery will chew up some of the bacterium's own proteins to recycle amino acids. This diverts amino acids into maintaining basic metabolism until, hopefully, living conditions improve.

EMBO J. 10.15252/embj.201387076 (2014).

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