Pore Forming Proteins
Pore-forming proteins are crucial armaments
in the continuous battle between organisms
and their pathogens. In the course of their
function, they assemble into oligomeric rings
that puncture holes through target
membranes, as illustrated here for cholesterol dependent cytolysins. Bacterial toxins are pore-forming
proteins that penetrate host cell membranes to
release nutrients for the bacteria, thus
invading or killing the host cells, for example in
bacterial pneumonia or meningitis.
Pore forming proteins also play important roles in our immune system. E.g., our blood contains pore forming proteins that can form membrane attack complexes (MACs, see movie) to kill Gram-negative bacteria. In addition, natural killer cells and killer T cells rely on a pore forming protein called perforin to eliminate virus-infected and cancerous cells. That is, perforin is also a key effector in immune therapies that rely on 'CAR-T cells' to cure cancer. For our work on pore forming proteins, we rely on an extensive network of collaborators, including structural biologists, microbiologists and cancer immunologists.
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