Sugar Coated: Molecular dress-up may disguise gut bacteria | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Sugar Coated: Molecular dress-up may disguise gut bacteria

By
9:30am, March 16, 2005

Even when you think you're alone, you're not. Several trillion bacteria tag along within the intestines of a typical person or other mammal.

While researchers have long known that these bacteria serve beneficial functions for their hosts, such as producing vitamins and breaking down nutrients (SN: 5/31/03, p. 344: Gut Check), it hasn't been clear why the host's immune system doesn't attack the microbes as foreign invaders. A new study suggests that these bacteria disguise themselves with sugar molecules originating in their host's intestinal cells.

Many scientists have theorized that gut bacteria use such molecular mimicry to avoid immune system detection. However, the researchers lacked convincing data. Seeking new evidence, Laurie E. Comstock and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston examined Bacteroides fragilis, a common gut bacterium.

The team knew that B. fragilis internally produces a simple sugar cal

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

[title_1]
From the Nature Index Paid Content