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New research boosts antibiotic hope

Advancing our understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave

Date:
December 17, 2015
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
A new study provides new information about the way bacterial cells build up a defensive sugar coating and how that process can be interrupted.
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Research carried out at the University of Exeter has advanced understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave and may pave the way for new and more targeted antibiotics.

A study led by Dr. Nicholas Harmer, Senior Lecturer in Structural Biochemistry at the University of Exeter, published today in the journal Chemistry and Biology, provides new information about the way bacterial cells build up a defensive sugar coating and how that process can be interrupted.

In the study, funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the Royal Society, researchers worked out the structure of a protein that helps assemble this sugar coating using X-rays. They then built an experiment that could test a key step in that process.

"We identified the most important parts of this protein that is involved in making up the outer structure of some pathogenic bacteria and found that the protein regulated itself in quite an unusual way," said Dr Mirella Vivoli, associate research fellow at the University of Exeter and first author on the paper. "We were then able to test a number of compounds and find one that blocked this action and its ability to make the sugar."

The researchers are hopeful that the identification of this pathway and compound will boost attempts to find new more effective antibiotics.

"We have identified a good target that can readily be blocked by drug-like chemicals. We believe that this offers a great opportunity to develop new anti-microbials," said Dr Harmer.

Unravelling the B. pseudomallei heptokinase WcbL: from Structure to Drug Discovery by Mirella Vivoli, Michail N. Isupov, Rebecca Nicholas, Andrew Hill, Andrew E. Scott, Paul Kosma, Joann L. Prior and Nicholas J. Harmer is published in Chemistry and Biology.


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Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mirella Vivoli, Michail N. Isupov, Rebecca Nicholas, Andrew Hill, Andrew E. Scott, Paul Kosma, Joann L. Prior, Nicholas J. Harmer. Unraveling the B. pseudomallei Heptokinase WcbL: From Structure to Drug Discovery. Chemistry & Biology, 2015; 22 (12): 1622 DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2015.10.015

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University of Exeter. "New research boosts antibiotic hope: Advancing our understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217130343.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2015, December 17). New research boosts antibiotic hope: Advancing our understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 8, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217130343.htm
University of Exeter. "New research boosts antibiotic hope: Advancing our understanding of how some damaging bacteria behave." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217130343.htm (accessed May 8, 2017).