Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Using evolution, UW team creates a template for many new therapeutic agents

By guiding an enzyme down a new evolutionary pathway, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has created a new form of an enzyme capable of producing a range of potential new therapeutic agents with anticancer and antibiotic properties.

Writing in the current issue (Sept. 9, 2007) of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, a team of researchers from the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy describes a novel enzyme capable of changing the chemical properties of a variety of existing drugs and small molecules to make new agents to treat cancer and fight infection.

"We're finding this enzyme glycosylates all sorts of molecules," says Jon Thorson, a UW-Madison professor of pharmaceutical sciences describing the process of adding natural sugar molecules to other chemical molecules to enhance their biological effects.

The newly evolved enzyme developed by Thorson and colleagues Gavin. J. Williams and Changsheng Zhang, according to Thorson, is akin to a "Swiss Army enzyme," a catalyst that can decorate many different chemical molecules with all sorts of sugars to alter their biological effects.

... more about:
»Agents »CReATE »Thorson »antibiotic »enzyme »sugar »therapeutic

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts across biology, from single-celled organisms to humans. They promote chemical reactions in cells and are used widely in industry for everything from making beer and cheese to producing paper and biofuel.

They are also important for making so-called natural drugs, therapeutic agents based on the blueprints of chemicals produced in nature by plants and microorganisms. Such natural sugar-bearing chemicals are the basis for some of medicine's most potent antibiotics and anticancer drugs as exemplified by the antibiotic erythromycin and the anticancer drug doxorubicin.

Important chemical features of such drugs are natural sugars, molecules that often determine a chemical compound's biological effects. Although scientists can sometimes manipulate how sugars are added or subtracted to a chemical molecule to alter its therapeutic properties, it is difficult and not always possible to routinely modify them to enhance their beneficial effects.

The new enzyme was created by generating random mutations in genes that make a naturally occurring enzyme. The altered genes were then put into a bacterium, which fabricated a series of randomly mutated new enzymes. These enzyme variants were then tested in a high throughput screen where chemical molecules engineered to fluoresce stop glowing when a sugar is successfully attached.

"We're transferring the sugar to a beacon," Thorson explains. "When you attach a sugar, you shut off the fluorescence."

The development of the screen, according to Thorson, was critical, overcoming a key limitation in the glycosyltransferase field.

"We're assaying hundreds of very interesting drug-like molecules now with newly evolved glycosyltransferases. The ability to rapidly evolve these enzymes has opened a lot of doors."

The range of potential therapeutic agents that might be generated with the new technology includes important anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds, and antibiotics.

What's more, the work could lead to the creation of a "super bug," an engineered bacterium that can perform the entire process in a laboratory dish: "There's no doubt that this is going to work in vivo," says Thorson. "We can create a bug where you feed it sugars and the compounds you want to hang those sugars on" to arrive at new medicines.

Jon Thorson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Agents CReATE Thorson antibiotic enzyme sugar therapeutic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

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...

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>