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  1. The interaction between host immunity and bacterial cells plays a pivotal role in a variety of human diseases. The bacterial cell wall component peptidoglycan (PG) is known to stimulate an immune response, which makes PG a distinctive recognition element for unveiling these complicated molecular interactions. Pattern recognition receptor (PRR) proteins are among the critical components of this system that initially recognize molecular patterns associated with microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. These molecular patterns are mostly embedded in the bacterial or fungal cell wall structure and can be released and presented to the immune system in various situations. Nonetheless, detailed knowledge of this recognition is limited due to the diversity among the PG polymer and its fragments; the subsequent responses by multiple hosts add more complexity. Here, we discuss how our understanding of the role and molecular mechanisms of the well-studied PRR, the NOD-like receptors (NLRs), in the human immune system has evolved in recent years. We highlight the instances of other classes of proteins with similar behavior in the recognition of PG that have been identified in other microorganisms such as yeasts. These proteins are particularly interesting because a network of cellular interactions exists between human host cells, bacteriamore »and yeast as a part of the normal human flora. To support our understanding of these interactions, we provide insight into the chemist's toolbox of peptidoglycan probes that aid in the investigations of the behaviors of these proteins and other biological contexts relevant to the sensing and recognition of peptidoglycan. The importance of these interactions in human health for the development of biomarkers and biotherapy is highlighted.« less
  2. Round spheres, straight rods, and twisting corkscrews, bacteria come in many different shapes. The shape of bacteria is dictated by their cell wall, the strong outer barrier of the cell. As bacteria grow and multiply, they must add to their cell wall while keeping the same basic shape. The cells walls are made from long chain-like molecules via processes that are guided by protein scaffolds within the cell. Many common antibiotics, including penicillin, stop bacterial infections by interrupting the growth of cell walls. Helicobacter pylori is a common bacterium that lives in the gut and, after many years, can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. H. pylori are shaped in a twisting helix, much like a corkscrew. This shape helps H. pylori to take hold and colonize the stomach. It remains unclear how H. pylori creates and maintains its helical shape. The helix is much more curved than other bacteria, and H. pylori does not have the same helpful proteins that other curved bacteria do. If H. pylori grows asymmetrically, adding more material to the cell wall on its long outer side to create a twisting helix, what controls the process? To find out, Taylor et al. grew H. pylorimore »cells and watched how the cell walls took shape. First, a fluorescent dye was attached to the building blocks of the cell wall or to underlying proteins that were thought to help direct its growth. The cells were then imaged in 3D, and images from hundreds of cells were reconstructed to analyze the growth patterns of the bacteria’s cell wall. A protein called CcmA was found most often on the long side of the twisting H. pylori. When the CcmA protein was isolated in a dish, it spontaneously formed sheets and helical bundles, confirming its role as a structural scaffold for the cell wall. When CcmA was absent from the cell of H. pylori, Taylor et al. observed that the pattern of cell growth changed substantially. This work identifies a key component directing the growth of the cell wall of H. pylori and therefore, a new target for antibiotics. Its helical shape is essential for H. pylori to infect the gut, so blocking the action of the CcmA protein may interrupt cell wall growth and prevent stomach infections.« less