Toxin Study by Olson, De Published in PNAS

Eric GershonMay 4, 20111min

In a newly published paper, Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, describes studies of a toxin produced by the bacterium that causes cholera.

The paper –“Crystal structure of the Vibrio cholerae cytolysin heptamer reveals common features among disparate pore-forming toxins” – is the culmination of nearly eight years work. Co-authored with Swastik De, a graduate student in Olson’s lab, the paper has been published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and will appear in a print edition later this spring.

Olson’s lab studies the molecular details of how pathogens invade human hosts.  Bacteria produce toxins to protect themselves from hosts’ immune systems and to scavenge materials necessary for colonization. Understanding how toxins affect host cells could lead to better treatments in some cases.