Scientists have discovered exactly how some bacteria act to protect themselves when they are threatened or under attack.
After many years of painstaking studies – led by Assistant Professor Tarmo Roosild at Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada and Professor Ian Booth at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland – scientists have figured out the mechanics of ‘channels’ in bacteria which stay shut if all is normal and are triggered to open if they need to mount a defense.
The breakthrough finding published in the journal Structure paves the way for the development of new methods for tackling E.coli, salmonella, and brucella infections, as well as the bacteria Pseudomonas, which often colonize the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients and also cause infection in those whose immune systems are compromised.
Professor Roosild collaborated with scientists from both the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom and the Salk Institute in San Diego, California on the research which was funded in part by the Nevada INBRE program of the National Institutes of Health.
The research focused on E.coli but the protective channel system is common to many pathogens that cause infection and disease.
Professor Booth said: “I started work to understand this system in 1984 so it is tremendously exciting to have made this breakthrough in understanding the molecular workings of these protective channels that are found in several pathogens, many of which are increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics.”
“Our next challenge is to design chemicals that fool the bacterium into locking the channel open all the time, which will then impair its growth, or we could lock it shut so it can’t protect itself.”
Dr. Roosild added: “Discovery of new drugs through the structural analysis of proteins that underlie diseases, including cancer, and are potentially molecular targets for therapeutic intervention, is the primary focus of our research.”
“The hope is that these particular studies will eventually lead to the development of new medicines that will cure people with deep seated bacterial infections such as those in intensive care.”
Date: June 10, 2009
Source: Nevada Cancer Institute