Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Protein could put antibiotic-resistant bugs in handcuffs

10.06.2014

Ubiquitous protein controls copying of resistant DNA

Staph infections that become resistant to multiple antibiotics don't happen because the bacteria themselves adapt to the drugs, but because of a kind of genetic parasite they carry called a plasmid that helps its host survive the antibiotics.


An atomic force microscopy image shows a four-part complex of the protein RepA (bright mounds) bound together and "handcuffing" two thread-like strands of DNA plasmid.

Credit: University of Nebraska Medical Center Nanoimaging Core Facility

Plasmids are rings of bare DNA containing a handful of genes that are essentially freeloaders, borrowing most of what they need to live from their bacterial host. The plasmids copy themselves and go along for the ride when the bacteria divide to copy themselves.

A team from Duke and the University of Sydney in Australia has solved the structure of a key protein that drives DNA copying in the plasmids that make staphylococcus bacteria antibiotic-resistant. Knowing how this protein works may now help researchers devise new ways to stop the plasmids from spreading antibiotic resistance in staph by preventing the plasmids from copying themselves.

"If plasmids can't replicate, they go away," said lead author Maria Schumacher, an associate professor of biochemistry in the Duke University School of Medicine. "This is a fantastic new target for antibiotics."

The work appears the week of June 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An essential part of biology, plasmids are so minimalistic they're not even considered alive by themselves. But they're good at ferrying genes from one kind of bacteria to another in a process called horizontal gene transfer. They also excel at adapting to environmental conditions more quickly than their bacterial hosts. Plasmids are able to develop new defenses to an antibiotic and then share that new trick with other bacteria.

Through several years of laborious structural biology to figure out the specific shapes of the molecules involved, the research team has mapped out the structure and function of a protein called RepA, which is crucial to the plasmids' ability to copy its DNA and make a new plasmid.

RepA is a protein that sticks to the beginning of the plasmid's DNA sequence and starts the copying process. "This protein is essential to everything," Schumacher said. "If you don't have it, the plasmid will quickly cease to exist."

Plasmids also need a mechanism to prevent themselves from making too many copies, which would strangle their bacterial host. The researchers have found that RepA is crucial to that function as well.

RepA naturally sticks together in pairs. When a pair of RepA proteins bumps into another pair, as when the cell is starting to get crowded with plasmids, the two pairs of RepA preferentially stick to each other. They form a complex back-to-back, with both having their DNA-grabbing parts facing outward.

When RepA forms this four-part molecule, the plasmids are said to be 'handcuffed,' because two rings of DNA are captured with the locked-up and non-functional RepA complex in the middle.

Once it is handcuffed like this, the plasmid will no longer replicate. Schumacher said this mechanism is apparently how RepA prevents the plasmids from overpopulating the bacterial cell.

Schumacher says RepA is ubiquitous in the plasmid world and doesn't bear much resemblance to other proteins, or to human proteins, making it an attractive drug target. She is hopeful the molecule could be a new site to attack with antibiotics.

"This has been a fun project because we saw many things we didn't expect to see," Schumacher said.

###

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy in the U.S., and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

CITATION: "Mechanism of staphylococcal multiresistance plasmid replication origin assembly by the RepA protein," Maria Schumacher, Nam K. Tonthat, Stephen M. Kwon, Nagababu Chinnam, Michael A. Liu, Ronald A. Skurray and Neville Firth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 9, 2014. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1406065111

Karl Leif Bates | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: DNA Health Protein antibiotics bacteria bacterial copying genes mechanism pair plasmids proteins replicate structure

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biology in a twist -- deciphering the origins of cell behavior
31.03.2015 | National University of Singapore

nachricht Speech dynamics are coded in the left motor cortex
31.03.2015 | Universitätsmedizin Göttingen - Georg-August-Universität

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biology in a twist -- deciphering the origins of cell behavior

31.03.2015 | Life Sciences

Wrapping carbon nanotubes in polymers enhances their performance

31.03.2015 | Materials Sciences

Research Links Two Millennia of Cyclones, Floods, El Niño

31.03.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>