Bacteria research opens way for new antibiotics

May 6, 2015 by Robyn Mills, University of Adelaide

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered a target for the development of completely new antibiotics against disease-causing bacteria.

Published online ahead of print in the leading microbiology journal Molecular Microbiology, the researchers have identified a building block common to many types of bacterial 'virulence factors' (the bacterial proteins which act as weapons to cause disease, such as toxins or degrading enzymes).

The building block, called the Passenger-associated Transport Repeat (PATR), has been found in virulence factors of many major including Salmonella, Shigella, and Meningococcus as well as that cause infections in cystic fibrosis and burns patients. It has been found in many of the major so-called 'Gram negative bacteria', including those that have developed resistance to a broad range of antibiotics.

The PATR was shown to be integral in the transport of the virulence factors to the surface of the bacterial cell, where they need to be to function as disease-causing agents.

"Bacteria can only cause disease when virulence factors are appropriately produced by the bacteria and transported (or secreted) onto the cell surface where they become harmful," says first author Matthew Doyle, PhD candidate in the School of Biological Sciences.

"Our results are very exciting ─ we are not just talking about one molecule in one particular pathogen but rather a building block which is shared by thousands of common virulence factors produced by many major pathogenic bacteria. The PATR is crucial for those to mature appropriately.

"It opens up the possibility for development of a completely new class of broad-spectrum bacterial virulence inhibitors. If we can inhibit this building block, we are really onto something."

The discovery will also be useful in the biotechnology field for the development of a variety of marketable products and processes which rely on coupling biological molecules to cell surfaces.

The latest findings follow more than a decade of work led by Associate Professor Renato Morona looking at how bacteria cause disease. The research is expected to gain a lot of attention from the many groups around the world working in the field.

"We initially could not believe that this building block has been overlooked," says Associate Professor Morona. "We've discovered something that's been hidden in plain sight. It may shift the way research in this field is conducted."

Explore further: Building evolution-proof drugs

More information: "The passenger-associated transport repeat promotes virulence factor secretion efficiency and delineates a distinct autotransporter subtype." Mol Microbiol. 2015 Apr 13. DOI: 10.1111/mmi.13027

Related Stories

Building evolution-proof drugs

March 20, 2014

A new generation of drugs could help combat the growing number of bacterial diseases that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, a study reveals.

Breaking up the superbugs' party

August 13, 2013

The fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs has taken a step forward thanks to a new discovery by scientists at The University of Nottingham.

New mechanisms of 'social networking' in bacteria

April 7, 2015

Bacteria have traditionally been viewed as solitary organisms that "hang out on their own," says molecular biologist Kevin Griffith of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. However, scientists now realize that in fact, ...

How Salmonella survives the macrophage's acid attack

April 14, 2015

Macrophages destroy bacteria by engulfing them in intracellular compartments, which they then acidify to kill or neutralize the bacteria. However, some pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella enterica, have evolved to exist ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.

0 comments

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.