Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stopping MRSA Before It Becomes Dangerous Is Possible

07.12.2009
Most scientists believe that staph infections are caused by many bacterial cells that signal each other to emit toxins. The signaling process is called quorum sensing because many bacteria must be present to start the process.

But the Jeff Brinker research group has determined that the very first stage of staph infection, when bacteria switch from a harmless to a virulent form, occurs in a single cell and that this individual process can be stopped by the application of a simple protein.

The Brinker group’s nonantibiotic approach may make it easier to treat staphylococci strains that have become drug resistant like the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA. The control of such strains is a formidable problem in hospitals.

“The good news is that by inhibiting the single cell’s signaling molecules with a small protein, we were able to suppress any genetic reprogramming into the bacterium’s more virulent form,” said Brinker. “Our work clearly showed the strategy worked.”

Brinker, with appointments at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico, wrote about his group’s findings in the Nov. 22 issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

In the course of its experiments, the Brinker team achieved three firsts:

They isolated Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in individual, self-assembled nanoscale compartments. Isolation of an individual bacterium previously had been achieved only computationally, leaving open questions of how a physically and chemically isolated bacterium would actually behave.

They demonstrated that it was the release of signaling peptides from a single cell — not a quorum — that acted as a trigger to reprogram that same cell so that it released toxins.

By introducing an inexpensive, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) to bind to the messenger peptide, they stopped the single cell from reprogramming itself.

The term “quorum sensing” itself may prove a misnomer, the result of observations made in cell cultures rather than in the body, said Brinker. Because signaling molecules tend to diffuse away, a liquid culture of cells would naturally require many bacteria to produce enough signaling bacteria to begin reprogramming. The situation is otherwise in nature, where even a single cell may be sufficiently isolated that its own manufactured peptides would remain in its vicinity.

“Also, it’s hard to believe that one cell’s evolution could be based on what a whole bunch of cells do,” said Brinker. “When we instead consider that an individual cell will do what’s best for it, we can more clearly understand the benefits of that cell’s behavior.”

A bacterium may live longer by reprogramming itself to produce toxins or enzymes that allow it to access external nutrients, the Brinker group showed.

One aspect of experimental rigor was the team’s ability to organize living cells into a nanostructured matrix. “We’ve already done this with yeast,” said Brinker. “We just extended the process to bacteria.”

A key question was whether a cell could distinguish between peptides emitted by itself from those sent by other cells. If signaling peptides were chemically the same, what would it matter which bacterium emitted it?

As it turned out, said Brinker, “Peptides could bond to surface receptors on their own [generating] cell. So a single cell’s peptide molecules could activate its own genes to express proteins that make staph virulent.”

Indicating that the experiment had isolated the actual cause of the transformation, when the number of peptides produced by a cell ultimately came to exceed the number of lippoprotein molecules in solution, a stalled “quorum-sensing” procedure started up again.

When still more signaling molecules were added to the mix, the cell’s transformation occurred more rapidly.

Researchers hope to find a mechanism to locate bacteria reprogramming in the body so that the antidote can be delivered in time. The problem could be solved, suggested Brinker, by the insertion of VLDL-bearing nanospheres (another Brinker-group creation) into the bloodstream, linked to a ‘searcher’ molecule designed to find and link to suspect peptides or cells that produce them.

“Inhibiting this specific signaling molecule from turning on virulence wouldn’t inhibit other bacteria,” Brinker said.

Targeting is important because the human gastro-intestinal system contains many useful bacteria. These are often decimated by conventional antibiotics but would be spared by the Brinker group’s method.

Brinker, a Sandia Fellow and distinguished professor of chemical engineering and molecular genetics and microbiology at UNM, performed this work with Eric Carnes and DeAnna Lopez at the UNM Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering (Lopez is now a Sandia technologist), Graham Timmins at the UNM College of Pharmacy, Niles Donegan and Ambrose Cheung at Dartmouth Medical School, and Hattie Gresham at the New Mexico Veterans Administration Health Care System.

The Sandia work is supported by the Basic Energy Sciences / Division of Materials Science and Engineering and Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. Other project work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Institutes of Health.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, an autonomous Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Neal Singer | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

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...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

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...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

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,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>