Researchers have revealed the molecular structure of the cytotoxin from Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a widespread, highly contagious bacterium that infects the lungs.

The finding is in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “We know a lot about how the toxin works, but we did not have its 3D structure,” said corresponding author Joel B. Baseman, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Center for Airway Inflammation Research at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. “The structure shows us the molecular architecture of the protein, which permits the rational design of effective drugs and vaccines to neutralize the injurious effects of CARDS toxin.”

“The importance of the structure is that it gives us a detailed picture of the protein machine that causes the damage in the lungs linked to asthma and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),” said lead author P. John Hart, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the X-ray Crystallography Core Laboratory at the UT Health Science Center.

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