Architecture and function of human uromodulin filaments in urinary tract infections

Uromodulin is the most abundant protein in human urine. A new study published in Science shows the structure of uromodulin filaments and identifies a role for this protein in protecting from urinary tract infections. By using cryo-electron tomography, Weiss and colleagues show that uromodulin forms stacked, fishbone-like filaments (in blue). These filaments are bound by the pili of Uropathogenic E.coli (in brown/yellow), thus effectively preventing the bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract and causing infections.

The illustration is inspired by a cryo-tomogram from the study (panel A-B in Figure 3). I wanted to depict the bacteria in the act of "grabbing" the uromodulin filaments via the protein FimH on its pili, here represented by the hands. I really enjoyed drawing the beautiful structure of uromodulin, which reminded me of a coral and inspired an underwater-like scenery.

Weiss GL, Stanisich JJ, Sauer MM, Lin CW, Eras J, Zyla DS, Trück J, Devuyst O, Aebi M, Pilhofer M, Glockshuber R. Architecture and function of human uromodulin filaments in urinary tract infections. Science. 2020 Aug 21;369(6506):1005-1010. doi: 10.1126/science.aaz9866. Epub 2020 Jul 2. PMID: 32616672.

Link to the study

Press Release from ETH Zurich 

Uromodulin