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Biomedical engineers' detective work reveals antibiotic mechanism
Date:11/17/2008

(Boston) -- A series of genetic clues led a team of Boston University biomedical engineers to uncover exactly how certain antibiotics kill bacteria. The findings could help rejuvenate the efficacy of older antibiotics and reveal new antibiotic targets within bacterial cells.

"The research speaks to new insights into how current antibiotics work and how those insights can point toward development of more effective antibiotics," said James Collins, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University.

He is the senior author of a paper in the November 14th issue of Cell which describes the details of this pathway, particularly the initial trigger of this deadly sequence of events.

Collins and his colleagues used systems biology approaches to identify clusters of genes that became more active in the bacteria treated with antibiotics. The researchers then reconstructed the series of events leading to antibiotic-mediated bacterial death, using the changes in these genes as clues.

"Modern tools allow the simultaneous analysis of the many interacting components that make up complex biological systems,'' said Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. "Using such a systems approach, Dr. Collins and his coworkers revealed a surprising mechanism of action for certain antibiotics. This lays the foundation for further antibiotic development -- a pressing drug development need." said Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences.

Previously, Collins, Boston University doctoral candidate Michael Kohanski, and colleagues found a common mechanism of cell death in bacteria. They reported that several different classes of antibiotics all had this same underlying pathway that caused over-production of hydroxyl radical molecules which contributed to bacterial cell death.

The group's new research focu
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Contact: Ronald Rosenberg
ronrosen@bu.edu
617-358-1240
Boston University
Source:Eurekalert

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