Researchers find pathway and enzyme unique to tularemia organism

February 3, 2009

Researchers are closer to developing therapies to combat the deadly tularemia infection, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' online Early Edition.

Karl Klose, director of the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), says his lab collaborated with researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and Thomas Jefferson University in a study that discovered that Francisella tularensis makes an essential metabolic molecule, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), using a different process and different enzyme from all other living organisms.

F. tularensis is a highly infectious organism that causes morbidity and mortality in humans. Very little is known about its molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, and no vaccine is available for protection against tularemia, the disease it causes. Consequently, there is great concern about its role as a potential bioweapon.

However, the researchers' findings are promising. Because F. tularensis makes NAD using a unique pathway that is not used by humans, that pathway can be targeted to destroy the tularemia organism without doing damage to the human host.

"There is a 'conventional' way to make NAD, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, in all living organisms studied thus far, ranging from bacteria to humans," said Klose, whose lab studies the genetics behind the virulence of F. tularensis. "Our study uncovered that Francisella makes NAD in a very unique way, using the enzyme nicotinamide mononucleotide synthetase, or NMS. The findings offer us a possible target for the development of therapeutics against tularemia."

Source: University of Texas at San Antonio

Explore further: DNA detectives crack the case on biothreat look-alikes

Related Stories

DNA detectives crack the case on biothreat look-alikes

August 24, 2017

Biological "detectives" are tracking down biothreats such as the bacteria that causes tularemia ("rabbit fever"), but they constantly face the challenge of avoiding false positives. Sounding the alarm over a bioattack, only ...

Molecular map shows how to disable dangerous bioweapon

September 6, 2017

During World War II, the Soviet Red Army was forced to move their biological warfare operations out of the path of advancing Nazi troops. Among the dangerous cargo were vials of Francisella tularensis, the organism that causes ...

What is tularemia and can I catch it from a possum?

June 27, 2017

Tularemia is a disease that affects humans and other animals. It is caused by infection with the bacterium Francisella tularensis and is commonly spread by biting insects or by direct contact with an infected animal.

Researchers warn of tularemia in area feral hogs

January 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- After finding evidence in feral hogs of the bacteria that causes tularemia, researchers at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech University are warning hunters and ranchers ...

Recommended for you

New technique spots warning signs of extreme events

September 22, 2017

Many extreme events—from a rogue wave that rises up from calm waters, to an instability inside a gas turbine, to the sudden extinction of a previously hardy wildlife species—seem to occur without warning. It's often impossible ...

Quantum data takes a ride on sound waves

September 22, 2017

Yale scientists have created a simple-to-produce device that uses sound waves to store quantum information and convert it from one form to another, all inside a single, integrated chip.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
not rated yet Feb 03, 2009
Very cool.

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.