Researchers engineer synthetic pathways for new antibacterial treatments

Jun 19, 2013
Researchers engineer synthetic pathways for new antibacterial treatments
Credit: Shutterstock

Bacteria, for the most part, thrive in extreme temperatures and in arid conditions. But some types of bacteria have the capacity to do this and more: they grow within diverse environments and adapt easily. One such species is the Bacillus subtilis. Known to make its home in soil and in water, researchers have also found evidence that B. subtilis is frequently present in the human gut.

B. subtilis forms endospores that can protect it from nutrient deprivation. Researchers have seized on this and frequently use the genetically controllable bacterium as a cell factory in biotechnology. Enter BASYNTHEC ('Bacterial synthetic minimal genomes for biotechnology'), a project launched in 2010. It sought to develop a model-based approach for engineering B. subtilis and create synthetic modules for producing metabolites and proteins of interest. Ultimately, the research could lead to new antimicrobial treatments for bacterial infections.

But the results could also lead to better strain safety, reducing the ability of strains being able to survive and diminishing the unwanted side effects that all have. This, in turn, would lead to both fewer accidental gene transfers and unwanted interactions with the environment, humans or products.

The project is supported under the 'Knowledge-based bioeconomy' theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Led by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in France, the project partners used computational and with novel high-throughput methodologies to alter and reduce the chromosome of this particular strain 'à la carte'.

The team produced, collected and subjected hundreds of deleted strains (strains in which part of a single chromosome has been lost) to high-throughput screening for antimicrobial targets and other applications. The BASYNTHEC team also engineered for and for production of vitamin B5, enabling the researchers to test their full potential. A patent application based on this work has been filed.

The consortium started from the conviction that it was necessary to identify both new antimicrobials for bacterial infection treatment, and targets within the bacterial cell for antimicrobials. The deletion strains generated in the study allowed the researchers to determine which strains are relatively resistant to Sublancin 168, a B. subtilis-triggered antimicrobial peptide that has the capacity to destroy several certain organisms.

There are many companies manufacturing enzymes for the pharmaceutical industry. The Bacillus species is already recognised for its low cost and efficiency in production chains, but there is still room for improvement - for example by eliminating the unwanted side effects during production. The team is hopeful that combining the BASYNTHEC modelling framework with validated and less complex bacterial strains will encourage scientists to use it as a generic biotechnological platform for better control and cell metabolism manipulation during industrial processes.

The BASYNTHEC team brought together experts from Novozymes A/S (Denmark), INRA Transfert (France), Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Germany), Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen (Netherlands), DSM Nutritional Products (Switzerland), Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (Switzerland) and the University of Chicago (United States).

Explore further: Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

More information: BASYNTHEC: www.basynthec.eu/
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA): www.inra.fr/en/

Related Stories

The determining factors of cell shape examined

Oct 04, 2012

A European team is investigating the role of the bacterial cell wall and the cytoskeleton in mediating cell shape. Results are expected to have broader implications for cell biology.

Harnessing the power of killer bacteria

Jun 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 ...

New non-toxic disinfectant could tackle hospital infections

Aug 07, 2012

A new disinfectant, Akwaton, that works at extremely low concentrations could be used in healthcare settings to help control persistent hospital-acquired infections such as Clostridium difficile. The study is reported online ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

Stopping Candida in its tracks

Jul 03, 2015

Scientists are one step closer to understanding how a normally harmless fungus changes to become a deadly infectious agent.

New technique maps elusive chemical markers on proteins

Jul 02, 2015

Unveiling how the 20,000 or so proteins in the human body work—and malfunction—is the key to understanding much of health and disease. Now, Salk researchers developed a new technique that allows scientists ...

User comments : 0

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.