Microbiology

Trehalose confers superpowers

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1398-1399
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6369.1398-e
Trehalose provides Acinetobacter with high temperature resistance.PHOTO: DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY/SCIENCE SOURCE

Trehalose is a disaccharide that can endow organisms with extraordinary survival abilities. It is implicated in desiccation resistance, osmoprotection, and heat and cold tolerance, as well as acting as a radical scavenger. Acinetobacter baumannii has emerged as a notably stress-tolerant nosocomial pathogen that accumulates trehalose. In addition to the sugar, Zeidler et al. have discovered that this pathogen produces mannitol and takes up glycine betaine in response to osmotic stress under high salt concentrations. A. baumannii has to survive not only high-salt environments in mammalian niches and drying out in the wider hospital environment, but also occasional blasts of high temperatures. Although mannitol and glycine betaine relieve osmotic stress, it seems that trehalose may be specifically required for survival at temperatures above 37°C. Other pathogens use similar protective solutes to promote survival during transitionary stages in their life cycles.

Environ. Microbiol. 10.1111/1462-2920.13987 (2017).

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