Research at the European XFEL: Structural biology research on bacterial insecticides

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  • uploaded April 19, 2024

Lainey Williamson and Hannah Best from Cardiff University in UK investigate structural biology of bacterial insecticides. Bacterial insecticides from Bacillus thuringiensis can specifically target e.g. agricultural pests, but do not harm other insects and are safe for higher organisms. Using such insecticides for agricultural purposes instead of chemical agents will help to stop the decline in insect populations across the globe.
Insecticides that target mosquito larvae can be used to fight the spread of e.g. Zika and Dengue virus and other pathogens for which mosquitoes act as vectors. A similar class of proteins shows anti-cancer activity in human cancer cell lines. These proteins all natively form in vivo grown nanocrystals that are ideal candidates for serial femtosecond crystallography at European XFEL’s SPB/SFX instrument.
Solving the yet unknown structures in the native state at room temperature will elucidate structure-function relations and have a big impact for the development of better insecticides to combat diseases and the disappearing of bees and other insects important for food security and well-being.

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