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Achilles' heel of pathogenic bacteria discovered
Date:12/17/2012

, the ribosomes. Ribosomes assemble proteins from the individual building blocks the amino acids according to the blueprints stored in the genes. "The results of the Yale group suggested that EF-P should influence protein production in bacteria. However, we knew that most proteins can be synthesized without EF-P," says Marina Rodnina. "Thus, the intriguing question for us was: Have we overlooked proteins that can only be produced with the help of EF-P? And if so: What are these proteins?"

With these ideas in mind, the young scientists Lili Drfel and Ingo Wohlgemuth set out searching for the "needle in the haystack". They systematically looked for amino acid sequences in proteins that could be formed only with EF-P and found the pattern: Proteins containing more than two consecutive residues of the amino acid proline could only be manufactured efficiently in the presence of EF-P. "Proline-rich proteins are not only important for growth of bacteria, they also form dangerous weapons that salmonellae or the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli bacterium EHEC use to attack human cells," explains Wohlgemuth. Approximately 270 of the total 4,000 E. coli proteins contain this type of amino acid pattern. "Our results show that EF-P is actually an important auxiliary factor in the production of such proteins. Furthermore, this factor has been found in all bacteria studied to date," says the scientist.

Protein production, besides cell wall synthesis and replication of the genetic material, is a major target for common antimicrobials. The growing number of multidrug-resistant bacterial strains makes the search for new therapeutics all the more urgent. "A factor similar to EF-P is indeed present in human cells as well, but it differs in a number of important features from its bacterial counterpart. Therefore, EF-P represents a promising new target for fighting multidrug-resistant pathogens without inhibiting the protein production in our own cells," exp
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Contact: Prof. Marina V. Rodnina
rodnina@mpibpc.mpg.de
49-551-201-2901
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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