“It was really quite a surprise when we realized we had discovered the unknown player in how bacteria make the B vitamin folate, a player that we’ve known of since 1974,” says study author L. Mario Amzel, Ph.D., professor and director of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Hopkins. “Basic research can be so serendipitous at times.”
Amzel and colleague Maurice Bessman and their labs were in the middle of systematically characterizing how members of a family of related enzymes in bacteria can recognize specific molecules. With each family member, they isolated purified enzyme, grew crystals of pure enzyme, and figured out the enzyme’s 3-D structure by using techniques that use X-rays.
Armed with the 3-D structure, they then used computer modeling to analyze how the enzyme binds to and acts on another molecule, its substrate.
“We still didn’t know that it was anything special until Maurice started searching old publications,” says study author Sandra Gabelli, Ph.D. “As it turns out, Suzuki and coworkers in 1974 had published evidence of an enzyme in the bacteria E. coli with similar characteristics to ours that could initiate folate biosynthesis.”
“So we had to ask, Can the bacteria make folate if we remove the orf17 gene"” says Amzel. Bessman and colleagues then “knocked-out” the gene and, predictably, the bacteria made 10 times less folate than usual.
“It was such a sweet discovery,” says Gabelli. “It’s scientific discovery the old-fashioned way, finding something we weren’t looking for.”
The mechanics behind how bacteria make folate are of particular interest to scientists who want to design more powerful antibacterial drugs. Humans cannot make folate because they do not have any of the same molecular machinery. Therefore, it’s possible to design drugs that target the bacterial folate machinery that would not lead to side effects in humans.
Their discovery, says Amzel, identifies yet another potential antibacterial target. “We are not in that business of drug design—we’re focused on the basics, figuring out how things work,” he says. “We do hope that others can use what we find to make new drugs.”
First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control
15.12.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
New technique could make captured carbon more valuable
15.12.2017 | DOE/Idaho National Laboratory
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
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15.12.2017 | Life Sciences
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