Protein clue to tailor-made antibiotics

August 22, 2006

Scientists at the University of York have made a huge leap forward in the search for 'smarter' antibiotics.

A research group in the Department of Biology has made a significant advance in understanding how bacteria use proteins to conduct a type of biological warfare.

Bacteria like E. coli frequently try to kill each other when resources are scarce using protein antibiotics called colicins, which are potent toxins.

The research led by Professor Colin Kleanthous has discovered a critical element in the mode of action of a class of colicins (so-called DNases) that kill cells by destroying their DNA.

Though most proteins have a folded structure, DNase colicins are only partially so. The scientists have found that the unfolded part of DNase colicin structure makes its way into an unsuspecting bacterium and blocks a key process that lowers the cell's defences and allows the toxin to enter.

Professor Kleanthous said: "Antibiotic resistance is on the increase throughout the world. Understanding how bacteria have evolved to kill each other with protein toxins might offer ways of constructing new, tailor-made antibiotics that target particular microorganisms."

Researchers are now trying to establish what it is about this blocking mechanism (which they've christened 'competitive recruitment') that lowers the cells' defences toward the colicin.

Source: University of York

Explore further: The sting in the tail: Chance finding could lead to new antibiotics

Related Stories

Harnessing the power of killer bacteria

June 19, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered new clues about a potential weapon in the fight against a dangerous superbug which is becoming increasingly resistant to usual forms of treatment.

E. coli packs a punch - an intestinal insight from ISIS

December 23, 2011

Recent studies at the ISIS neutron source, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s world leading research centre, have given a new insight into how E. coli bacteria, often associated with food poisoning (and ...

Recommended for you

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.