Scientists discover function of anthrax receptor

Scientists recently uncovered the physiological functions of the receptor anthrax uses to inject its lethal toxin into cells.

The receptor, called Anthrax Toxin Receptor 2a, or Antxr2a, plays a role in embryonic development by orienting cell division along a specific plan, precluding the formation of future tissues and functions. At a cellular level, Antxr2a allows chromosomes to separate to opposite poles in order to take positions along the plane of division, according to

A team of scientists from the Swiss University of Geneva and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne discovered the receptor and its function as they attempted to discern how the anthrax bacteria's toxins enter cells. Their research appears in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

"The Antxr2a receptors recruit in turn 'motor' proteins capable of attaching themselves to the mitotic spindle and pulling it towards the internal cap," team leader Marcos Gonzalez-Gaitan said, reports. "When the cell receives an external signal to initiate its division, a cascade of biochemical events is launched to transmit the message to the interior of the cell and have it carried out. We knew that an external signal, a protein called Wnt, was necessary to properly position the mitotic spindle, but knew nothing of the intracellular messengers involved."

In mammals, it appears that the receptor is also involved in the growth and proliferation of blood vessels.