Scientists at Yale have exposed “the molecular tricks” bacteria uses to battle the effects of fluoride.
In the December 22 online issue of the journal, Science Express, the researchers report that sections of RNA messages called riboswitches – which control the expression of genes – detect the build-up of fluoride and activate the defenses of bacteria.
“These riboswitches are detectors made specifically to see fluoride,” said Ronald Breaker, the Henry Ford II Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and senior author of the study.
The riboswitches work to counteract fluoride’s effect on bacteria. “If fluoride builds up to toxic levels in the cell, a fluoride riboswitch grabs the fluoride and then turns on genes that can overcome its effects,” said Breaker. The scientists have found more than 2000 of these strange RNAs in many organisms. They also have found many organisms that are using these fluoride switches and the proteins used to combat fluoride toxicity.
“Cells have had to contend with fluoride toxicity for billions of years, and so they have evolved precise sensors and defense mechanisms to do battle with this ion,” said Breaker. These new findings reveal how microbes overcome fluoride toxicity.
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Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Lawrence