Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacterial 'Battle For Survival' Leads To New Antibiotic

Date:
February 27, 2008
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Biologists have provoked soil-dwelling bacteria into producing a new type of antibiotic by pitting them against another strain of bacteria in a battle for survival. The antibiotic holds promise for treatment of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers in humans. Also, figuring out the still murky explanation for how the new antibiotic was produced could help scientists develop strategies for finding other new antibiotics.

Slide culture of Rhodococcus rhodochrous. Rhodococcus does not normally produce antibiotics.
Credit: CDC

MIT biologists have provoked soil-dwelling bacteria into producing a new type of antibiotic by pitting them against another strain of bacteria in a battle for survival.

Related Articles


The antibiotic holds promise for treatment of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers in humans. Also, figuring out the still murky explanation for how the new antibiotic was produced could help scientists develop strategies for finding other new antibiotics.

A combination of luck, patience and good detective work contributed to the discovery of the new antibiotic, according to Philip Lessard, research scientist in Professor Anthony Sinskey's laboratory at MIT.

Sinskey's lab has been studying Rhodococcus, a type of soil-dwelling bacteria, for many years. While sequencing the genome of one Rhodococcus species, the researchers noticed that a large number of genes seemed to code for secondary metabolic products, which are compounds such as antibiotics, toxins and pigments.

However, Rhodococcus does not normally produce antibiotics. Many bacteria have genes for antibiotics that are only activated when the bacteria are threatened in some way, so the researchers suspected that might be true of Rhodococcus.

Kazuhiko Kurosawa, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biology, decided to try to provoke the bacteria into synthesizing antibiotics by placing them in stressful environments. He tried turning the temperature up and down, then altered the bacteria's growth medium, but nothing worked.

Kurosawa then decided to stress the Rhodococcus bacteria by forcing them to grow in the presence of a competing bacteria, a strain of Streptomyces. Streptomyces produces an antibiotic that normally kills other bacteria, but in one of the experimental test tubes, Rhodococcus started producing its own antibiotic, which wiped out the Streptomyces.

The researchers isolated the antibiotic, dubbed it rhodostreptomycin, and started testing it to see what else it would kill. It proved effective against many other strains of bacteria, most notably Helicobacter pylori. Rhodostreptomycin is a promising candidate to treat H. pylori because it can survive in very acidic environments such as the stomach.

The antibiotic turned out to be a type of molecule called an aminoglycoside, composed of peculiar sugars, one of which has a ring structure that has not been seen before. The ring structure could offer chemists a new target for modification, allowing them to synthesize antibiotics that are more effective and/or stable.

"Even if (rhodostreptomycin) is not the best antibiotic, it provides new structures to make chemical derivatives of," said Lessard. "This may be a starting point for new antibiotics."

One mystery still to be solved is why Rhodococcus started producing this antibiotic. One theory is that the presence of the competing strain of bacteria caused Rhodococcus to "raise the alarm" and turn on new genes.

The version of Rhodococcus that produces the antibiotic has a "megaplasmid," or large segment of extra DNA, that it received from Streptomyces. A logical conclusion is that the plasmid carries the gene for rhodostreptomycin, but the researchers have sequenced more than half of the plasmid and found no genes that correlate to the antibiotic.

Another theory is that the plasmid itself served as the "insult" that provoked Rhodococcus into producing the antibiotic. Alternatively, it is possible that some kind of interaction of the two bacterial genomes produced the new antibiotic.

"Somehow the genes in the megaplasmid combined with the genes in Rhodococcus and together they produced something that neither parent could make alone," said Lessard.

If scientists could figure out how that happens, they could start to manipulate bacterial genomes in a more methodical fashion to design new antibiotics.

The work is reported in the February issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Other authors of the paper are T.G. Sambandan, research scientist in MIT's Department of Biology, MIT professors Anthony Sinskey of biology and ChoKyun Rha of the Biomaterials Science and Engineering Laboratory, and Ion Ghiviriga and Joanna Barbara of the University of Florida.

The research was funded by the Cambridge-MIT Institute and the Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Bacterial 'Battle For Survival' Leads To New Antibiotic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226115618.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2008, February 27). Bacterial 'Battle For Survival' Leads To New Antibiotic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226115618.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Bacterial 'Battle For Survival' Leads To New Antibiotic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226115618.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins