Structural and functional characterization of the vibrio cholerae toxin-coregulated pilus

Vibrio cholerae is a bacteria that infects the human small intestine to cause the potentially fatal diarrheal disease cholera. This disease, which is spread through contaminated drinking water, represents a major health threat in developing countries, with young children being most vulnerable. The toxin co-regulated pili (TCP) on the surface of V. cholerae are important components in the bacteria’s ability to cause disease in the host. TCP are hairlike filaments that hold the bacteria together in aggregates or microcolonies, protecting them from the host immune response and concentrating the toxin they secrete. The TCP are also the route through which the V. cholerae bacteria is itself infected by a virus called CTX-phi, which enables V. cholerae to produce cholera toxin. Dr. Lisa Craig is determining the molecular structure of the TCP and delineating the regions of this filament that are involved in microcolony formation and in binding to CTX-phi. The information obtained from her studies may lead to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for combating this deadly disease.