Antibiotics that only partly block protein machinery allow germs to poison themselves

Oct 25, 2012

Powerful antibiotics that scientists and physicians thought stop the growth of harmful bacteria by completely blocking their ability to make proteins actually allow the germs to continue producing certain proteins—which may help do them in.

The finding, by a team at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, clarifies how antibiotics work and may aid in the discovery of new drugs or improve clinical therapy with existing ones. The study is published in the Oct. 26 issue of the journal Cell.

Among the most complex molecular machines in the cell are the ribosomes, responsible for churning out all the proteins a cell needs for survival. In bacteria, ribosomes are the target of many important antibiotics, says Alexander Mankin, professor and director of the UIC Center for , who led the study.

Mankin and his colleagues picked apart the process of protein synthesis inside the ribosome, comparing the action of the classic antibiotics and and newer drugs called ketolides, which are used to treat serious infections.

Surprisingly, the more powerful drugs were the more "leaky" in blocking the production of proteins.

"We were shocked to discover that ketolides, which are known to be better antibiotics, allow for many more proteins to be made compared to the older, less efficient drugs," Mankin said. "We now believe that allowing cells to make some proteins could be much more damaging for a microbe than not letting it make any proteins at all."

The findings may point the way to better and more potent antibiotics, Mankin said. But he and colleagues are "thinking beyond just antibiotics."

"If a chemical can be designed that binds to the human and allows it to make good proteins but not bad ones, such as mutant enzymes or proteins that promote cancer, then such new drugs can treat many human maladies," he said.

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Related Stories

Scientists discover how some bacteria survive antibiotics

Apr 30, 2008

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered how some bacteria can survive antibiotic treatment by turning on resistance mechanisms when exposed to the drugs. The findings, published in the April 24 ...

Antibiotics might team up to fight deadly staph infections

Jan 26, 2010

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Israel's Weizman Institute of Science have found that two antibiotics working together might be more effective in fighting pathogenic bacteria than either drug on its ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0