Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research provides new leads in the case against drug-resistant biofilms

11.11.2010
Films of bacteria that form around foreign materials in the body can be very difficult to defeat with drugs, but research led by Brown University biologists has identified a couple proteins that play a key role in building these “biofilms.” This pair could prove to be a very important target for developing new antibiotics to fight infections.

When a foreign object such as a catheter enters the body, bacteria may not only invade it but also organize into a slick coating — a biofilm — that is highly resistant to antibiotics. Like sophisticated organized crime rings, biofilms cannot be defeated by a basic approach of conventional means.

Instead doctors and drug developers need sophisticated new intelligence that reveals the key players in the network and how they operate. New research led by biologists at Brown University provides exactly that dossier on some key proteins in the iconic bacterium E. coli.

In a paper published this week in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers describe a couple of prime suspect genes and the “toxin-antitoxin” protein pair they produce. By analyzing the structure and binding of the proteins in the exquisite detail of atomic-scale X-ray crystallography, the team at Brown and Texas A&M University makes the case that “MqsR” and “MqsA” proteins are important operators worth targeting in hopes of disrupting the formation of biofilms.

“Developing new antibiotics has been very difficult, and they all pretty much target the same few proteins,” said corresponding author Rebecca Page, assistant professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown. “Our proteins belong to a family of proteins that have never been investigated for their ability to lead to novel sets of antibiotics. This really provides a new avenue.”

The main role of the combination, or complex, of MqsA and MqsR is that they appear to control the transcription of many genes, including ones that govern the growth of “persister” cells, which provide biofilms with a mesh of antibiotic-resistant constituents. In normal populations, persisters are one in a million. In biofilms, they are one in a hundred.

“The MqsR:MqsA complex not only binds its own genetic promoter, but also binds and regulates the promoters of other genes that are important for biofilm formation,” Page said. “This is the only known toxin-antitoxin system that is capable of doing this.”

An odd bird

The MqsA antitoxin is as unusual as it is influential, Page’s team reports. For one thing, the protein, which resembles a bird with wide flapping wings — Page likens it to a Klingon “Bird of Prey” ship from Star Trek — needs the metal zinc on each wing tip to keep it stable. When it’s bound to its partner toxin and DNA, the antitoxin also keeps a very tight lid on the toxin’s ability to operate on mRNA, squeezing key parts, or active sites, so close together (about 1 billionth of a meter) that the mRNA simply can’t enter.

Because the toxin’s activity is key to the health and welfare of persister and biofilm cells, the properties of the toxin-antitoxin binding that regulate them give rise to some potential drug development strategies, Page said. For most of the time, the toxin is bound by the antitoxin, allowing cells to grow. Under other conditions, the antitoxin is destroyed and the toxin is free to cleave, or disable, mRNA. That shuts off existing persister and biofilm cells from further growth, and instead keeps them in a dormant state well-protected from things like antibiotics. If that cleaving goes on too long, however, the cells will die.

So two approaches for drug development, Page said, might be to find compounds that can either keep the toxin-antitoxin pair associated all the time (so that the toxin is inactive and thus that no cleaving occurs), or keep them separated all the time (so that the toxin is active and cleaving always occurs). The zinc on the antitoxin may also prove to be a target.

The investigation is ongoing, but the word is now out on the street that for MqsA and MqsR, the heat is on.

In addition to Page, the paper’s other authors are graduate student Breann Brown and Associate Professor Wolfgang Peti in Brown’s Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology, and Thomas Wood, professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M.

David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

Further reports about: Brown E. coli MqsA MqsR iconic bacterium E. coli key protein new antibiotics proteins

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>