Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bacterial 'battle for survival' leads to new antibiotic

26.02.2008
Holds promise for treating stomach ulcers

MIT biologists have provoked soil-dwelling bacteria into producing a new type of antibiotic by pitting them against another strain of bacteria in a battle for survival.

The antibiotic holds promise for treatment of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers in humans. Also, figuring out the still murky explanation for how the new antibiotic was produced could help scientists develop strategies for finding other new antibiotics.

The work is reported in the February issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

... more about:
»Genome »MIT »Rhodococcus »Streptomyces »antibiotic »strain

A combination of luck, patience and good detective work contributed to the discovery of the new antibiotic, according to Philip Lessard, research scientist in Professor Anthony Sinskey's laboratory at MIT.

Sinskey's lab has been studying Rhodococcus, a type of soil-dwelling bacteria, for many years. While sequencing the genome of one Rhodococcus species, the researchers noticed that a large number of genes seemed to code for secondary metabolic products, which are compounds such as antibiotics, toxins and pigments.

However, Rhodococcus does not normally produce antibiotics. Many bacteria have genes for antibiotics that are only activated when the bacteria are threatened in some way, so the researchers suspected that might be true of Rhodococcus.

Kazuhiko Kurosawa, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biology, decided to try to provoke the bacteria into synthesizing antibiotics by placing them in stressful environments. He tried turning the temperature up and down, then altered the bacteria's growth medium, but nothing worked.

Kurosawa then decided to stress the Rhodococcus bacteria by forcing them to grow in the presence of a competing bacteria, a strain of Streptomyces. Streptomyces produces an antibiotic that normally kills other bacteria, but in one of the experimental test tubes, Rhodococcus started producing its own antibiotic, which wiped out the Streptomyces.

The researchers isolated the antibiotic, dubbed it rhodostreptomycin, and started testing it to see what else it would kill. It proved effective against many other strains of bacteria, most notably Helicobacter pylori. Rhodostreptomycin is a promising candidate to treat H. pylori because it can survive in very acidic environments such as the stomach.

The antibiotic turned out to be a type of molecule called an aminoglycoside, composed of peculiar sugars, one of which has a ring structure that has not been seen before. The ring structure could offer chemists a new target for modification, allowing them to synthesize antibiotics that are more effective and/or stable.

"Even if (rhodostreptomycin) is not the best antibiotic, it provides new structures to make chemical derivatives of," said Lessard. "This may be a starting point for new antibiotics."

One mystery still to be solved is why Rhodococcus started producing this antibiotic. One theory is that the presence of the competing strain of bacteria caused Rhodococcus to "raise the alarm" and turn on new genes.

The version of Rhodococcus that produces the antibiotic has a "megaplasmid," or large segment of extra DNA, that it received from Streptomyces. A logical conclusion is that the plasmid carries the gene for rhodostreptomycin, but the researchers have sequenced more than half of the plasmid and found no genes that correlate to the antibiotic.

Another theory is that the plasmid itself served as the "insult" that provoked Rhodococcus into producing the antibiotic. Alternatively, it is possible that some kind of interaction of the two bacterial genomes produced the new antibiotic.

"Somehow the genes in the megaplasmid combined with the genes in Rhodococcus and together they produced something that neither parent could make alone," said Lessard.

If scientists could figure out how that happens, they could start to manipulate bacterial genomes in a more methodical fashion to design new antibiotics.

Other authors of the paper are T.G. Sambandan, research scientist in MIT's Department of Biology, MIT professors Anthony Sinskey of biology and ChoKyun Rha of the Biomaterials Science and Engineering Laboratory, and Ion Ghiviriga and Joanna Barbara of the University of Florida.

The research was funded by the Cambridge-MIT Institute and the Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Program.

Written by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

Further reports about: Genome MIT Rhodococcus Streptomyces antibiotic strain

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New technique to determine protein structures may solve biomedical puzzles
12.12.2019 | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

nachricht NTU Singapore scientists convert plastics into useful chemicals using su
12.12.2019 | Nanyang Technological 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: Cheers! Maxwell's electromagnetism extended to smaller scales

More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the publication of James Clerk Maxwell's "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" (1865). What would our lives be without this publication?

It is difficult to imagine, as this treatise revolutionized our fundamental understanding of electric fields, magnetic fields, and light. The twenty original...

Im Focus: Highly charged ion paves the way towards new physics

In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.

Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...

Im Focus: Ultrafast stimulated emission microscopy of single nanocrystals in Science

The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.

Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...

Im Focus: How to induce magnetism in graphene

Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...

Im Focus: Electronic map reveals 'rules of the road' in superconductor

Band structure map exposes iron selenide's enigmatic electronic signature

Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Weizmann physicists image electrons flowing like water

12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Revealing the physics of the Sun with Parker Solar Probe

12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique to determine protein structures may solve biomedical puzzles

12.12.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>