Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Antifungal compound found on tropical seaweed has promising antimalarial properties

22.02.2011
A group of chemical compounds used by a species of tropical seaweed to ward off fungus attacks may have promising antimalarial properties for humans. The compounds are part of a unique chemical signaling system that seaweeds use to battle enemies – and that may provide a wealth of potential new pharmaceutical compounds.

Using a novel analytical process, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the complex antifungal molecules are not distributed evenly across the seaweed surfaces, but instead appear to be concentrated at specific locations – possibly where an injury increases the risk of fungal infection.

A Georgia Tech scientist will report on the class of compounds, known as bromophycolides, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Feb. 21, 2011 in Washington, D.C. The research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, is part of a long-term study of chemical signaling among organisms that are part of coral reef communities.

"The language of chemistry in the natural world has been around for billions of years, and it is crucial for the survival of these species," said Julia Kubanek, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biology and School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "We can co-opt these chemical processes for human benefit in the form of new treatments for diseases that affect us."

More than a million people die each year from malaria, which is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The parasite has developed resistance to many antimalarial drugs and has begun to show resistance to artemisinin – today's most important antimalarial drug. The stakes are high because half of the world's population is at risk for the disease.

"These molecules are promising leads for the treatment of malaria, and they operate through an interesting mechanism that we are studying," Kubanek explained. "There are only a couple of drugs left that are effective against malaria in all areas of the world, so we are hopeful that these molecules will continue to show promise as we develop them further as pharmaceutical leads."

In laboratory studies led by Georgia Tech student Paige Stout from Kubanek's lab – and in collaboration with California scientists – the lead molecule has shown promising activity against malaria, and the next step will be to test it in a mouse model of the disease. As with other potential drug compounds, however, the likelihood that this molecule will have just the right chemistry to be useful in humans is relatively small.

Other Georgia Tech researchers have begun research on synthesizing the compound in the laboratory. Beyond producing quantities sufficient for testing, laboratory synthesis may be able to modify the compound to improve its activity – or to lessen any side effects. Ultimately, yeast or another microorganism may be able to be modified genetically to grow large amounts of bromophycolide.

The researchers found the antifungal compounds associated with light-colored patches on the surface of the Callophycus serratus seaweed using a new analytical technique known as desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS). The technique was developed in the laboratory of Facundo Fernandez, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. DESI-MS allowed researchers for the first time to study the unique chemical activity taking place on the surfaces of the seaweeds.

As part of the project, Georgia Tech scientists have been cataloging and analyzing natural compounds from more than 800 species found in the waters surrounding the Fiji Islands. They were interested in Callophycus serratus because it seemed particularly adept at fighting off microbial infections.

Using the DESI-MS technique, researchers Leonard Nyadong and Asiri Galhena analyzed samples of the seaweed and found groups of potent antifungal compounds. In laboratory testing, graduate student Amy Lane found that these bromophycolide compounds effectively inhibited the growth of Lindra thalassiae, a common marine fungus.

"The alga is marshalling its defenses and displaying them in a way that blocks the entry points for microbes that might invade and cause disease," Kubanek said. "Seaweeds don't have immune responses like humans do. But instead, they have some chemical compounds in their tissues to protect them."

Though all the seaweed they studied was from a single species, the researchers were surprised to find two distinct groups of antifungal chemicals. From one seaweed subpopulation, dubbed the "bushy" type for its appearance, 23 different antifungal compounds were identified. In a second group of seaweed, the researchers found 10 different antifungal compounds — all different from the ones seen in the first group.

In the DESI-MS technique, a charged stream of polar solvent is directed at the surface of a sample under study at ambient pressure and temperature. The spray desorbs molecules, which are then ionized and delivered to the mass spectrometer for analysis.

"Our collaborative team of researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the College of Sciences has worked within the Bioimaging Mass Spectrometry Center at Georgia Tech to better understand the mechanisms of chemical defenses in marine organisms," said Fernandez. "This is an example of cross-cutting interdisciplinary research that characterizes our institute."

Kubanek is hopeful that other useful compounds will emerge from the study of signaling compounds in the coral reef community.

"In the natural world, we have seaweed that is making these molecules and we have fungi that are trying to colonize, infect and perhaps use the seaweed as a substrate for its own growth," Kubanek said. "The seaweed uses these molecules to try to prevent the fungus from doing this, so there is an interaction between the seaweed and the fungus. These molecules function like words in a language, communicating between the seaweed and the fungus."

This presentation, "Warding Off Disease on Coral Reefs: Antifungal Chemical Cues in Tropical Seaweed" will be part of the session "Chemically Speaking: How Organisms Talk to Each Other" on Monday, February 21 at 9:45 a.m. The topic will also be part of a news briefing held at 8 a.m. that day.

John Toon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources
29.05.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>