Chemists at the University of Illinois and collaborators in Taiwan studied a type of enzyme found in humans, plants, fungi, parasites, and many bacteria that begins the synthesis of triterpenes – one of the most abundant and most ancient classes of molecules. Triterpenes are precursors to steroids such as cholesterol.
“These enzymes are important drug targets,” said chemistry professor Eric Oldfield, who co-led the study. “Blocking their activity can lead to new cholesterol-lowering drugs, antibiotics that cure staph infections, and drugs that target the parasites that cause tropical maladies such as Chagas disease – a leading cause of sudden death in Latin America.”
For the study, the team picked a representative enzyme, dehydrosqualene synthase (CrtM), from the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. Staph is one of the most common, yet notoriously hard to kill, bacterial infections. A key reason for staph’s resilience is a golden-colored coating called staphyloxanthin that protects it from the body’s immune system. CrtM catalyzes the first reaction in making staphyloxanthin, so inhibiting it would strip the bacteria of their protective coats and leave them vulnerable to attack by white blood cells.
The researchers already knew what CrtM looked like and its end product, but they didn’t know how the enzyme did its job. Uncovering the mechanism of action would enable scientists to design better inhibitors, and even tailor them to other targets.
The team crystallized the enzyme and soaked it with intermediates and inhibitors. They then studied the complex structures by X-ray crystallography using the synchrotron at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
They found that CrtM performs a two-step reaction, individually removing two diphosphate groups from the substrate. The substrate switches between two active sites within the enzyme as the reaction progresses. The most effective inhibitors bind to both sites, blocking the enzyme from any action.
“The leads that people have been developing for treating these diseases really haven’t had any structural basis,” said Oldfield, also a professor of biophysics. “But now that we can see how the protein works, we’re in a much better position to design molecules that will be much more effective against staph infections and parasitic diseases, and potentially, in cholesterol-lowering.”
The researchers’ inhibitor technologies have been licensed to AuricX Pharmaceuticals, which recently received a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund for preclinical testing in staph infections.
The team published its work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Council. Co-authors were U. of I. graduate students Fu-Yang Lin and Yi-Liang Liu, research scientists Rong Cao and Yonghui Zhang, and postdoctoral associate Ke Wang. Taiwan collaborators included Chia-I Liu, Wen-Yih Jeng, Tzu-Ping Ko and Andrew H. Wang.
Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Exposure to fracking chemicals and wastewater spurs fat cell development
22.06.2018 | Duke University
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
22.06.2018 | Life Sciences
22.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.06.2018 | Life Sciences