A paper published in the December, 2002 issue of Infection and Immunity by a research team at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans provides clear evidence that the lethal toxins of such infectious bacteria as Pseudomonas and anthrax can be blocked by a drug developed at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. The compound, called D6R (hexa-D-arginine), is a potent, stable, small molecule inhibitor of furin.
Bacteria produce a number of toxins which rapidly enter and kill cells. In anthrax, the lethal factor toxin must bind to another part of the anthrax toxin, called the PA molecule, before it can enter and destroy a cell. But before binding can occur, the PA molecule produced by the bacteria must be made smaller. Furin, a protein-cutting enzyme or protease, which sits on the outside of cells, cuts the PA molecule, making it small enough for the lethal factor toxin to attach. Lethal factor toxin cannot bind to PA that has not already been cut by furin; therefore, without cut PA, lethal factor toxin loses the ability to bind to and enter the cell, and becomes harmless.
Working on the theory that if the action of furin could be blocked, the toxins would not be activated and therefore unable to kill cells, the research team set out to make a peptide that would suppress furin activity. In collaboration with a research group in California (Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies), the LSUHSC group developed the furin inhibitor, D6R, for which a patent application has now been filed. The LSUHSC research group under the direction of Dr. Iris Lindberg, Professor of Biochemistry, included current postdoctoral fellow Dr. Miroslav S. Sarac, and past fellow Dr. Angus Cameron.
Leslie Capo | EurekAlert!
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