By Wendy Sarubbi | November 20, 2012 5:16 pm

Dr. Ken Teter of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences has been awarded a $351,959 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how the cholera toxin enters a host cell — research that could lead to more effective treatment of the life-threatening disease.

The project is titled “A Novel Mechanism for Toxin Export from the Endoplasmic Reticulum to the Cytosol.” Dr. Teter is listed as principal investigator, and Dr. Suren Tatulian of the College of Sciences/Physics Department is co-principal investigator.

“This grant is an accumulation of hard work from the students and post-docs in my lab,” Dr. Teter said.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. An estimated 3-5 million cases and more than 100,000 deaths occur each year around the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cholera is most often found in places with inadequate water treatment and poor sanitation. According to the Mayo Clinic, it requires immediate treatment because the disease can cause death within hours.  Rehydration, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and zinc supplements may be used.

The goal is to understand how the cholera toxin moves from the endoplasmic reticulum – key to the active transport of cellular materials – to the cytosol, the complex liquid found inside cells. The process begins when the cholera toxin (CT) enters the endoplasmic reticulum, where the CT A1 polypeptide is released and “unfolds.” CT A1 then moves into the cytoplasm, “refolds” and sets off a rapid loss of fluid from the intestine.

Dr. Teter said the project will focus on that last step where CT A1 enters the cytosol. Unlocking that action could lead to stopping the disease process.

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