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Discovery and structure of a widespread bacterial ABC transporter specific for ergothioneine

December 14, 2022

Two groups working independently, including one led by David Giedroc, Lilly Chemistry  Alumni Professor and Distinguished Professor, have discovered that many major bacterial pathogens can uptake the potent dietary antioxidant and low molecular weight thiol, ergothioneine, via a specific transporter he dubbed EgtU. Giedroc’s paper, published in Nature Communications, describes his discovery and structural characterization of EgtU in the respiratory pathogen, Streptococcus pneumoniae. In complementary work published in Cell, a group led by Stavroula Hatzios of Yale, shows that the gastrointestinal pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, takes up ergothioneine through EgtU to protect the organism against host-generated hypochlorous acid (bleach). These two papers set the stage for detailed studies of the oxidative fate and functional importance of ergothioneine in a wide range of bacteria during infections.