Researchers have discovered a new class of enzymes in hundreds of bacterial species, including some that cause disease in humans and animals. The discovery provides new insights into how bacteria invade their hosts. The research appears this week in Nature Communications.
Andrew Doxey, a professor of biology at the University of Waterloo, led the team that found it in a new type of flagella, a whip-like appendage found on the outside of a bacterial cell that propels it. This new type of flagella is capable of digesting proteins in the bacteria’s environment. This discovery updates the long-held view that bacteria use their flagella mostly for movement, and demonstrates that flagella can also function as enzymes, like what happens with the spread of infection.