Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Houseplant Pest Gives Clue To Potential New Anthrax Treatment

Date:
March 3, 2009
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Researchers in England have found how a citric acid-based Achilles heel used by a pathogen that attacks the popular African Violet house plant could be exploited not just to save African Violets but also to provide a potentially effective treatment for anthrax.

Dr. Nadia Kadi of the University of Warwick with African violets.
Credit: University of Warwick

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found how a citric acid-based Achilles heel used by a pathogen that attacks the popular African Violet house plant could be exploited not just to save African Violets but also to provide a potentially effective treatment for Anthrax.

The researchers examined how a chemical structure is assembled in a bacterial pathogen called Pectobacterium chrysanthemi (Dickya dadantii) that afflicts plants – particularly the African Violet which often appears in many homes as a decorative houseplant.

Like many bacteria Pectobacterium chrysanthemi competes with its host for iron. Without a supply of this essential nutrient the bacterium cannot grow. The University of Warwick researchers Dr Nadia Kadi, Dr Daniel Oves-Costales, Dr Lijiang Song and Professor Gregory Challis worked with colleagues at St Andrews University to examine how a "siderophore", one of the key tools the bacterium uses to harvest iron is assembled. They discovered how an enzyme catalyst in the assembly of this particular siderophore – called achromobactin – binds citric acid, a vital iron-binding component of the structure. Their findings show that this chemical pathway could be blocked or inhibited to prevent the bacterium from harvesting iron, essentially starving it.

While an interesting piece of science in itself and of even more interest to owners of African Violet houseplants the Warwick research team found that this work also has major implications for the treatment of several virulent and even deadly mammalian infections including Anthrax.

A second piece of research conducted by three of the University of Warwick researchers (Dr Daniel Oves-Costales, Dr Lijiang Song and Professor Gregory L. Challis ) found that the deadly pathogen which causes Anthrax in humans uses an enzyme to incorporate citric acid into another siderophore that is very similar to the one used by the African Violet pathogen. The researchers showed that both enzymes recognise citric acid in the same way. This means a common strategy could be used to block both the Anthrax and African Violet pathogen siderophore synthesis pathways.

Professor Greg Challis University of Warwick said: "Inhibiting this citric acid-based process could be even more effective in combating an anthrax infection than it would be in combating the African violet pathogen, because the African Violet pathogen has a second siderophore that can harvest iron from the host and could attempt to struggle on with just this, whereas the anthrax pathogen appears not to have such a back up mechanism."

This new discovery could lead to the design of drugs that might eliminate the anthrax pathogen's ability to harvest iron and stop an infection dead in its tracks. A respiratory anthrax infection is nearly always fatal but this discovery opens new possibilities for combating such infections.

The benefits of the discovery may even go beyond treatments for Anthrax. The researchers are now looking at similar enzymes involved in the assembly of citric acid-derived siderophores in E. coli and MRSA, which may offer further targets for drug development.

Funding for the research reported in both papers was provided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


Story Source:

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


Journal References:

  1. Schmelz et al. AcsD catalyzes enantioselective citrate desymmetrization in siderophore biosynthesis. Nature Chemical Biology, 2009; 5 (3): 174 DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.145
  2. Oves-Costales et al. Enantioselective desymmetrisation of citric acid catalysed by the substrate-tolerant petrobactin biosynthetic enzyme AsbA. Chemical Communications, 2009; DOI: 10.1039/b823147h

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Houseplant Pest Gives Clue To Potential New Anthrax Treatment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221355.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2009, March 3). Houseplant Pest Gives Clue To Potential New Anthrax Treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221355.htm
University of Warwick. "Houseplant Pest Gives Clue To Potential New Anthrax Treatment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221355.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Shoppers at an Oregon drug store were surprised by a bear cub scurrying down the aisles this past weekend. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) The Johnson family lost their battle with the Chesterfield County, Virginia Planning Commission to allow Tucker, their pet pig, to stay in their home, but refuse to let the board keep Tucker away. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
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