Disarming disease-causing bacteria

Apr 04, 2012
Professor Trevor Lithgow with Joel Selkrig

(PhysOrg.com) -- New treatments that combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance by disarming rather than killing bacteria may be on the horizon, according to a new study. 

Published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, research led by Monash University showed a protein complex called the Translocation and Assembly Module (TAM), formed a type of molecular pump in bacteria. The TAM allows bacteria to shuttle key disease-causing molecules from inside the bacterial cell where they are made, to the outside surface, priming the bacteria for infection.

Lead author and PhD student Joel Selkrig of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash said the work paves the way for future studies to design new drugs that inhibit this process.

"The TAM was discovered in many disease-causing bacteria, from micro-organisms that cause whooping cough and meningitis, to hospital-acquired bacteria that are developing resistance to current antibiotics," Mr. Selkrig said.

“It is a good antibacterial target because a drug designed to inhibit TAM function would unlikely kill bacteria, but simply deprive them of their molecular weaponry, and in doing so, disable the disease process."

“By allowing bacteria to stay alive after antibiotic treatment, we believe we can also prevent the emergence of , which is fast becoming a major problem worldwide."

The Monash team, led by Professor Trevor Lithgow from the Department of Biochemistry and , showed the TAM was made of two protein parts, TamA and TamB, which function together to form a machine of molecular scale.

Together with colleagues at the University of Melbourne, they compared normal virulent bacteria to mutant strains of bacteria engineered to have no TAM.

"We noticed that proteins important for disease were missing in the outer membrane of the mutant bacteria,” Mr. Selkrig said.

“The absent proteins help bacteria to adhere to our bodies and perform disease-related functions.”

Mr. Selkrig said the next step for the group was to dissect the molecular mechanism of how the TAM complex functions and, in collaboration with researchers at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, design an antibiotic that inhibits the TAM in .

Explore further: Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The structure of resistance

Feb 22, 2008

A team of scientists from the University Paris Descartes has solved the structure of two proteins that allow bacteria to gain resistance to multiple types of antibiotics, according to a report in EMBO reports this month. ...

A step closer to understanding, averting drug resistance

Jan 31, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The multidrug transporter EmrE functions as an asymmetric antiparallel dimer (molecule with two subunits). Drug (blue) transport from the inside to the outside of the cell membrane is accomplished ...

Antibiotic resistance spreads rapidly between bacteria

Apr 11, 2011

The part of bacterial DNA that often carries antibiotic resistance is a master at moving between different types of bacteria and adapting to widely differing bacterial species, shows a study made by a research ...

Nanotechnology used to probe effectiveness of antibiotics

Feb 04, 2009

A group of researchers led by scientists from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in collaboration with a University of Queensland researcher, have discovered a way of using tiny nano-probes to help understand how an antibiotic ...

Finding E. coli’s Achilles heel

Nov 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Thanks to the work of a Simon Fraser University researcher and two of his students, science is closer to finding a new way of combatting infections caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other related bacteria.

Recommended for you

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

15 hours ago

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

17 hours ago

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

Cell division speed influences gene architecture

Apr 23, 2014

Speed-reading is a technique used to read quickly. It involves visual searching for clues to meaning and skipping non-essential words and/ or sentences. Similarly to humans, biological systems are sometimes ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic legacy of rare dwarf trees is widespread

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found genetic evidence that one of Britain's native tree species, the dwarf birch found in the Scottish Highlands, was once common in England.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.