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The team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that a single atom—a calcium, in fact—can control how bacteria walk.

Matthew Redinbo, PhD

Matthew Redinbo, professor of Chemistry and joint professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC and his team has been working in close collaboration with Matthew Wolfgang, an assistant professor of Microbiology and Immunology and a member of the Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center at UNC, trying to figure out how bacteria’s tiny legs, or pili, function.

The finding sheds light on a key step in the process by which bacteria infect their hosts, and could one day lead to new drug targets to prevent infection.