Bacterial genome sheds light on synthesizing cancer-fighting compounds

May 10, 2005
Bacterial genome sheds light on synthesizing cancer-fighting compounds

Sea squirts around the world are breathing a sigh of relief, as they no longer run the risk of being harvested for their natural disease-fighting substances. Scientists recently discovered that the bacterium Prochloron didemnii, which lives symbiotically inside the sea squirt, actually produces the desired patellamides, compounds that may one day be used in cancer treatment.

Image: Scientists discovered Prochloron didemnii has the necessary genes to produce patellamides, compounds that may one day be used in cancer treatment. They were also able to transfer the patellamide genes to the laboratory workhorse bacterium, Escherichia coli, directing it to biosynthesize the product. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

Despite decades of attempts, scientists could not successfully cultivate Prochloron in the laboratory once the bacterium was isolated from the sea squirt. Because samples of Prochloron were easily contaminated with remnants of life inside its animal home, scientists couldn't tell if the bacterium or the sea squirt produced the sought-after patellamides, until now.

By searching for patellamide synthesis instructions in genomic sequences, scientists found the bacterium indeed has the necessary genes to produce these potentially important biochemicals, solving the source mystery. Knowing which genes Prochloron used for patellamide production also allowed researchers to synthesize the potentially important compounds in the lab using a so-called laboratory workhorse, the bacterium E. coli.

Scientists from The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), the University of Utah and the University of California, San Diego, report findings in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This project revealed detailed information about the metabolic capabilities of Prochloron, details that proved to be difficult to determine by other means, " said Patrick Dennis, manager for Prochloron genome sequencing at the National Science Foundation, which funded the study. "Furthermore, " he added, "by producing patellamides in the lab, the team demonstrated an important proof of principle for the biosynthesis of naturally occurring marine products."

Source: NSF

Explore further: A two generation lens: Current state policies fail to support families with young children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists monitoring Hawaii lava undertake risks

10 minutes ago

New photos from the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory give a glimpse into the hazardous work scientists undertake to monitor lava that's threatening to cross a major highway.

Germany's Bayer says will float chemicals division

just added

German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, maker of Aspirin painkiller, said on Thursday it intends to float its chemicals Material Science division to focus on its life sciences activities in human and animal health.

Facebook dressed down over 'real names' policy

8 hours ago

Facebook says it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted profiles of self-described drag queens and others, but declined to change a policy requiring account holders to use their real names rather than drag names such as ...

Recommended for you

New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

Sep 19, 2014

Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs – a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State Univer ...

Scholar tracks the changing world of gay sexuality

Sep 19, 2014

With same-sex marriage now legalized in 19 states and laws making it impossible to ban homosexuals from serving in the military, gay, lesbian and bisexual people are now enjoying more freedoms and rights than ever before.

User comments : 0