Research targets basic metabolism of disease-causing fungi, bacteria

August 18, 2010

Pablo Sobrado, assistant professor of biochemistry with the Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech, has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance his research on the mechanism of iron acquisition in fungi and mycobacteria.

Iron is essential for all life. The level of free in humans is less than Aspergillus fumigatus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis need. To satisfy their metabolic needs and enable infection, these microbes secrete molecules called siderophores to obtain iron from the host. The synthesis of siderophores requires special enzymes. Sobrado is studying these enzymes. "Our aim is to understand how the enzymes activate and attach it to the substrate molecules, lysine or ornithine, in the biosynthesis of siderophores," he said.

He reported in the July 2010 issue of the journal Biochemistry that the from A. fumigatus contains the cofactor flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) that reacts with molecular oxygen and forms a stable intermediate. The NSF grant will fund the research to elucidate the mechanism of action and the structure of the enzymes from A. fumigatus and M. tuberculosis, specifically, how they stabilize the intermediate and what regulates the specificity of the enzyme.

For the educational component of the NSF grant, Sobrado is collaborating with a group at the University of Pavia who are experts on . "Our students will travel to Italy to be trained in how to solve the structure of enzymes," he said. "The goal is to train global scientists."

The students will include members of Virginia Tech's Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program and Post-baccalaureate Research and Education Program, as well as high school students who will present their work at the local science fair.

Explore further: New finding points way to foiling anthrax's tricks

More information: The paper, "Aspergillus fumigatus SidA is a highly specific ornithine hydroxylase with bound flavin cofactor," by Wyatt Chocklett and Sobrado, is available at

Related Stories

New finding points way to foiling anthrax's tricks

November 30, 2006

University of California, Berkeley, chemists have discovered a trick that anthrax bacteria use to make an end run around the body's defenses, but which may turn out to be their Achilles' heel.

Unlocking the function of enzymes

November 6, 2007

Fitting a key into a lock may seem like a simple task, but researchers at Texas A&M University are using a method that involves testing thousands of keys to unlock the functions of enzymes, and their findings could open the ...

DNA biosynthesis discovery could lead to better antibiotics

April 16, 2009

Combating several human pathogens, including some biological warfare agents, may one day become a bit easier thanks to research reported by a University of Iowa chemist and his colleagues in the April 16 issue of the journal ...

Recommended for you

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Anti-aging treatment for smart windows

October 1, 2015

Electrochromic windows, so-called 'smart windows', share a well-known problem with rechargeable batteries – their limited lifespan. Researchers at Uppsala University have now worked out an entirely new way to rejuvenate ...


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.