Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unusual carbohydrate structure in the cell walls of tuberculosis bacteria-a new point of attack for drugs?


Even though we have lost much of our fear of tuberculosis in the industrialized countries, according to the WHO about 2 mio. people worldwide die each year of this infectious disease. Researchers at the University of Leeds have now discovered a carbohydrate with an unusual structure in the cell walls of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. This could be a new starting point for pharmaceutical research.

The main component of the cell walls of mycobacteria is a lipoarabinomannan (LAM), a molecule consisting of a branched segment made of many sugar building blocks, which is anchored to the cell wall by a fat-like segment. The sugars involved are almost exclusively arabinose and mannose. LAM plays an important role in infection, because it helps the mycobacteria to invade macrophages, dampen the immune response, and protect the invader from oxidation. Researchers working with Achim Treumann have recently discovered that some of the mannose end groups on the outside of the molecule carry another type of sugar building block, a so called methylthiopentofuranose. This type of sugar consists of five carbon atoms (pento) and one of its usual five oxygen atoms is replaced by a sulfur atom (thio), which is also attached to a methyl group (-CH3). This discovery is astonishing because this is the first time that a methylthiosugar has been identified as a component of a polysaccharide. The sulfur atom may be responsible for the protection from oxidation provided by LAM.

However, this sugar is astonishing for another reason: it has an unexpected configuration. Like many sugars, it contains a five-membered ring made of four carbon atoms and one oxygen atom (furanose). There are eight different possibilities for the exact configuration of such a five-membered ring, because each of the four carbon atoms is attached to a further group of atoms, which could lie above or below the surface of the ring. Treumann and his co-workers took on the task of synthesizing all of the eight variations. NMR spectroscopic comparison of the eight sugars with the "original" natural form then allowed the team to identify the correct structure. In this case it has the "xylo" configuration. This is unusual, since sugars with the xylo configuration are usually only found in plants, not in bacteria.

"The discovery of this new sugar component in LAM could help in the investigation of its role in mycobacterial infections," says Treumann. "As the sugar is very unusual, enzymes that are necessary for its biosynthesis could be a good point of attack for new tuberculosis medications."

Jaida Harris | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>