IFIB – Interfakultäres Institut für Biochemie



Breakthrough in the Decoding of Multi-Resistant Pathogens

IFIB researchers were able to determine the structure of a previously unknown protein used by dreaded pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus like a magic hat to protect themselves against the human immune system.

Infections caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus cause numerous deaths worldwide. Staphylococcus aureus strains that are resistant to the antibiotic methicillin (MRSA for short) are particularly feared in hospitals. 

These MRSA germs are typically invisible to the immune system. The study shows that many of the particularly frequent MRSA germs have acquired a previously unknown protein that leads to the pathogens no longer being recognized by antibodies of the immune system. The Tübingen scientists gave the protein the name TarP (short for teichoic acid ribitol P). The structural and functional analysis of this protein shows that TarP alters the pattern of carbohydrate molecules on the pathogen surface, and this results in the immune system being unable to produce antibodies against an important MRSA antigen. These results will help to develop better therapies and vaccines against particularly virulent MRSA strains.

The study was published in Nature.

For further information on this study, see:
Press Release (English)


Gerlach, Guo et al, 2018, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus alters cell wall glycosylation to evade immunity. Nature, DOI : 10.1038/s41586-018-0730-x


Prof. Dr. Thilo Stehle
University of Tübingen
Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry 
 Phone: +49 7071 29-73043
thilo.stehlespam prevention@uni-tuebingen.de