Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scripps Research Scientists Reengineer an Antibiotic to Overcome Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

25.08.2011
A team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have successfully reengineered an important antibiotic to kill the deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The compound could one day be used clinically to treat patients with life-threatening and highly resistant bacterial infections.

The results were published in an advanced online issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“[These results] have true clinical significance and chart a path forward for the development of next generation antibiotics for the treatment of the most serious resistant bacterial infections,” said Dale L. Boger, who is Richard and Alice Cramer Professor of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute and senior author of the new study. “The result could not be predicted. It really required the preparation of the molecule and the establishment of its properties.”

The compound synthesized is an analogue of the well-known commercial antibiotic vancomycin.

The new analogue was prepared in an elegant total synthesis, a momentous achievement from a synthetic chemistry point of view. “In addition to the elegantly designed synthesis,” said Jian Xie, postdoctoral fellow in Boger’s group and first author on the publication, “I am exceedingly gratified that our results could have the potential to be a great service to mankind.”

A Single Atom Changes Everything

Vancomycin is an antibiotic of last resort, which is used only after treatment with other antibiotics has failed. Clinically, it is used to treat patients that are either infected with the virulent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), individuals on dialysis, or those allergic to beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillin, cephalosporins).

The drug was first used clinically in the 1950s, and the first vancomycin-resistant bacterial strains were isolated in the 1980s.

Vancomycin normally works by grabbing hold of and sequestering the bacterial cell-wall making machinery, a peptidoglycan (carbohydrate and peptide containing molecule). Only Gram-positive bacteria have a cell wall, which is a membrane on the cell’s outer surface.

The antibiotic binds so tightly to the peptidoglycan that the bacteria can no longer use the machinery to make their cell wall and thus die.

Unfortunately, bacteria have found a way to alter the peptidoglycan in such a way that the antibiotic can no longer grab hold. Think of it as trying to hold a ball without any fingers. Biochemically the bacteria express a mutant form of the peptidoglycan in which properties of a key atom used in the recognition process are changed. This simply means where there once was something attractive there is now something repulsive. Chemically, the bacteria replace an amide (carbonyl, RC=O linked to an amine) with an ester (a carbonyl, RC=O linked to an oxygen, O).

This one atom change changes the entire game and renders vancomycin ineffective. Until now.

Reengineering Vancomycin

Like magnets, molecular interactions can be attractive (oppositely charged) or repulsive (identically charged). What chemists in the Boger lab have done is made this key interaction no longer repulsive, but attractive.

So now the new vancomycin analogue can grab hold of the mutant peptidoglycan, and again prevent the bacteria from making the cell wall and killing the resistant bacteria. But what is so remarkable about the design is that the redesigned antibiotic maintains its ability to bind the wild type peptidoglycan as well.

Changing the properties of a key amide at the core of the natural products structure required a new synthetic strategy that only the most talented chemists could achieve in the lab. The preparation of the entire structure took a great deal of time and a fresh approach.

The new compound has an amidine (an iminium, RC=NH+ linked to a nitrogen, N) instead of an amide at a key position buried in the interior of the natural product. However, to install such a functional group, the chemical properties of the amide carbonyl were not useful, as the natural product has seven of them.

Instead, the group relied on the chemical properties of sulfur (S), oxygen’s downstairs neighbor in the periodic table, to install the desired nitrogen. To do this, a second analogue was prepared in which the key amide was chemically altered to a thioamide. “The thioamide allowed us to make any modification at the residue 4 amide that we would like to make, such as the amidine, but we could also make the methylene analogue,” said Boger citing work published in another paper (B. Crowley and D. L. Boger, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128: 2885-2892). “And there are other modifications that we are making at the present time that we haven’t disclosed. We are just getting to that work.”

The most fundamental finding in the synthesis was that the installation of the amidine could be done in the last step, as a single-step conversion, on the fully unprotected thioamide analogue. Providing an elegant and novel approach to the analogue, which contrasts other published multistep procedures. This chemical behavior was, as Boger said, “an astonishing result as there are no protecting groups and it is a single step reaction… in the end it was the simplest and most straightforward way to prepare the amidine.”

Although it is still at its early stages and there is much work ahead. Currently, the only route known to make the new antibiotic is the one published by Boger and his co-workers, which presently provides laboratory amounts of the compound. So Professor Boger now looks forward and will continue to investigate the “host of alternative approaches” for the preparation of the molecule “such as reengineered organisms to produce the material or semi-synthetic approaches to the analogue. That is going to be part of the next stage of the work.”

In addition to Boger and Xie, other contributors to the paper, titled “A Redesigned Vancomycin Engineered for Dual d-Ala-d-Ala and d-Ala-d-Lac Binding Exhibits Potent Antimicrobial Activity Against Vancomycin-Resistant Bacteria,” include Joshua G. Pierce, Robert C. James, and Akinori Okano. See http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja207142h .

The work was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health (CA041101) and the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neuroscience, and vaccine development, as well as for its insights into autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious disease. Headquartered in La Jolla, California, the institute also includes a campus in Jupiter, Florida, where scientists focus on drug discovery and technology development in addition to basic biomedical science. Scripps Research currently employs about 3,000 scientists, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students on its two campuses. The institute's graduate program, which awards Ph.D. degrees in biology and chemistry, is ranked among the top ten such programs in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

For information:
Mika Ono
Tel: 858-784-2052
Fax: 858-784-8136
mikaono@scripps.edu

Mika Ono | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.scripps.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>