Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Could New Discovery About A Shape-shifting Protein Lead To A Mighty 'Morpheein' Bacteria Fighter?

Date:
June 24, 2008
Source:
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Summary:
A small molecule that locks an essential enzyme in an inactive form could one day form the basis of a new class of unbeatable, species-specific drugs, including antibiotics. PBGS, an enzyme used by nearly all cellular life, is a morpheein -- a molecule that spontaneously "shape-shifts," -- turning from an active octamer (eight part) protein to a hexamer (six part). Morphlock stabilizes the hexamer, thereby turning off the enzyme.

Morphlock-1 (yellow) binds the inactive form of a protein known as PBGS, an enzyme used by nearly all living things. The functioning form of PBGS is built from eight identical component parts, in what is called an octamer configuration (pink). The hexamer configuration (blue) is made of six parts.
Credit: FCCC

A small molecule that locks an essential enzyme in an inactive form could one day form the basis of a new class of unbeatable, species-specific antibiotics, according to researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Their findings, highlighted on the cover of the June 23 issue of the journal Chemistry & Biology, take advantage of an emerging body of science regarding "morpheeins" -- proteins made from individual components that are capable of spontaneously reconfiguring themselves into different shapes within living cells.

The researchers discovered a small molecule, which they have named morphlock-1, binds the inactive form of a protein known as porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS), an enzyme used by nearly all forms of cellular life. The functioning form of PBGS is built from eight identical component parts -- in what is called an octamer configuration -- and is essential among nearly all forms of life in the processes that enable cells to use energy. The other configuration is made of six parts -- or a hexamer configuration -- and serves as a "standby" mode for the protein.

"As the name suggests, morphlock-1 essentially locks the hexamer configuration into place, preventing its protein subunits from reconfiguring into the active assembly," says lead investigator Eileen Jaffe, Ph.D, a Senior Member of Fox Chase. "Targeting morpheeins in their inactive assemblies provides an entirely new approach to drug discovery."

While their study was performed using a pea plant-version of PBGS, the researchers have reason to believe the principle could apply to bacterial versions of PBGS as well. "Using morphlock-1 as a base, we are seeking to fine tune the molecule so that it blocks just the bacterial version of the PBGS enzyme, " Jaffe says.

"Because PBGS is so crucial for life, the part of the enzyme where chemistry happens is highly conserved through evolution," Jaffe says, meaning that an all-around PBGS-inhibiting drug would harm bacteria, peas and people alike. The area where the potential drug binds to the hexamer form of the protein, however, has been found to differ among species, depending how far the organisms have evolved from each other.

When PBGS is in its inactive hexamer form, there is a small cavity on the surface of the assembled complex. Using computer docking techniques, Jaffe and her Fox Chase colleagues identified a suite of small molecules predicted to bind to this cavity.

The researchers then bought and tested a selection of these molecules in the lab to see if any of them stabilized the pea PBGS in its hexamer assembly. One inhibitor in particular, given the name morphlock-1, potently drove the formation of the hexamer in pea PBGS, but not in that of humans, fruit flies, or the infectious bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or Vibrio cholerae, the latter of which causes cholera. Morphlock-1 is a potent inhibitor of pea PBGS, but not of the PBGS from these other organisms.

Jaffe coined the term "morpheein" in 2005 after a study of the structure of PBGS revealed its shape-shifting tendencies. While initially met with skepticism because the existence of morpheeins contradicts some classic concepts about protein structure and function, subsequent studies have reinforced that PBGS (and perhaps other proteins) exhibits this behavior. According to Jaffe, this study is the first to make use of alternate morpheein shapes as a potential strategy for drug discovery, in general, particularly for antibiotics.

"Multi-drug resistance drives the need for developing new antibiotics," Jaffe says. "Since drugs that stabilize the inactive PBGS hexamer need not be chemically similar to each other, it will be difficult for the bacterium to develop complete resistance to a cocktail of such compounds."

The study was funded by grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Institutes of Health, particularly the National Cancer Institute, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fox Chase Cancer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fox Chase Cancer Center. "Could New Discovery About A Shape-shifting Protein Lead To A Mighty 'Morpheein' Bacteria Fighter?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080620122838.htm>.
Fox Chase Cancer Center. (2008, June 24). Could New Discovery About A Shape-shifting Protein Lead To A Mighty 'Morpheein' Bacteria Fighter?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080620122838.htm
Fox Chase Cancer Center. "Could New Discovery About A Shape-shifting Protein Lead To A Mighty 'Morpheein' Bacteria Fighter?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080620122838.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. 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:
from the past week

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