A U of I-Led Study Identifies a Protein That Saves Cells From Formaldehyde Toxicity
May 28, 2021
Normal cellular processes give rise to toxins, like formaldehyde, that cells must mitigate. Bacteria that feed on methanol, like Methylorubrum extorquens, produce a lot of formaldehyde. A U of I-led study published in PLOS Biology identified a protein that acts as a kill-switch, binding to formaldehyde and leading to a rapid cessation in growth and protein production. This protein, named EfgA, is the first formaldehyde sensor ever discovered in bacteria that eat methanol as food and is found nearly universally among bacteria with this metabolic capacity.
When the genes that code for EfgA were given to E. coli, these E. coli had greater resistance to formaldehyde. The authors hypothesize that EfgA may interact directly with ribosomes, the cells’ protein-producing factories, to protect cells from continuing to create new proteins that will be deformed upon reaction with formaldehyde. These findings may have applicability for bacteria used in creating biofuels from the breakdown of plant matter, a formaldehyde-producing process.
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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu