Nitrite’s got to be cruel to be kind
The Cholera pathogen uses a smart metabolic switch to control population expansion and survival for an optimal adaptation to the intestine’s low-oxygen environments.
The human pathogen Vibrio cholerae has puzzled the scientists since its discovery 150 years ago. Experts who studied the bacterium couldn’t understand that the bacterium was not able to grow under anaerobic conditions despite it was equipped with an active metabolic machinery which should enable the organism to respire nitrate instead of oxygen, conditions that typically exist in the gastrointestinal tract. The common opinion was that the bacteria accumulates the intermediate product nitrite which inhibits further growth.
The research group of Felipe Cava at The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden studied this bacteria now under low-oxygen and different pH-conditions. Together with their colleagues in Boston, USA, the scientists at Umeå University discovered an elegant pH-dependent metabolic mechanism which permits the pathogen to switch to a resting mode with preserved viability. A smart strategy that provides competitive advantage against commensal bacteria to better colonize and infect the intestine. The group published the results now in the latest issue of Nature Microbiology 1 October 2018.