Pathogen Destruction Mechanism of Red Blood Cells Identified

Research Press Release | October 20, 2014

Schematic diagram of the action mechanism of pore-forming toxins and their structure which was identified for the first time in this study.

Press Release
Key Points ・Pathogens secrete pore-forming toxic proteins that destroy human red blood cells by creating holes called pores.

・The structure prior to pore formation was determined, and mechanism of pore formation was identified.

・Pore application as molecular devices¹) expected to expand to pore utilization as locomotive devices.

Overview Some bacterial pathogens secrete toxins, which form holes called pores and destroy red blood cells. These pore-forming toxins are secreted as soluble monomers, but drastically change form after conjoining into a circular pattern on red blood cells, resulting in the formation of pores. In this study, we identified the working mechanism of pore-forming toxins of Staphylococcus aureus using the X-ray crystal structural analysis method. Until now, pores were thought to form all at once; however, we discovered that the top and bottom halves form separately. Utilization of molecular devices that allow substances to pass through pores has been used, but now that this activity has been clarified, development of devices which utilize locomotion is expected in the future.

Explanation of


1 Molecular device: specialized function of molecules whose proteins and DNA have properties that allow the accurate identification and ability to bind to a specific target and gather in specific forms. By utilizing these properties, molecular devices which carry medicine to a specific location via virus particles have been developed.

Yoshikazu Tanaka, Associate Professor, Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University

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Laboratory of X-ray Structural Biology




Molecular basis of transmembrane beta-barrel formation of staphylococcal pore-forming toxins,

Nature Communications (2014.9.29)