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Chemists design molecules for controlling bacterial behavior
Date:5/13/2014

Chemists in the College of Arts and Sciences have figured out how to control multiple bacterial behaviorspotentially good news for the treatment of infectious diseases and other bacteria-associated issues, without causing drug resistance.

Yan-Yeung Luk, associate professor of chemistry, has spearheaded the discovery, in conjunction with his research lab at Syracuse University and the Wang Lab at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Their findings are the subject of a forthcoming article in the journal ChemBioChem (John Wiley & Sons Inc.).

"Since the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928, bacteria have become smarter and have developed resistance to many drugs," says Luk, an expert in bio-organic chemistry, nanomaterials and chemical biology. "They've done this by altering their genetic make-up; transferring drug-resistant genes between one another; and creating biofilms, which are multicellular communities where bacteria can be a thousand-fold more resistant to antibiotics."

In response, Luk's team has developed a class of chemical agents that does not kill bacteria but, rather, changes their multicellular behaviors. These agents are called disaccharide derivatives, and they mimic a class of natural molecules known as rhamnolipids, which are produced and secreted by the bacterium itself.

Luk says that while non-microbicidal (i.e., "non-killing") molecules are nothing new, his are unique because they target a new, yet-to-be-explained set of biological receptors.

"Rhamnolipids modulate at least three multicellular bioactivities in Pseudomonas aeruginosa," says Luk, referring to the rod-shaped bacterium that causes disease in animals and humans. "The synthetic molecules made by our lab don't exactly look like rhamnolipids, but they can control bioactivities, such as swarming movements, surface adhesion and biofilm formation."

This class, he adds, is non-microbicidal with a wide variety of microbes, thus giving
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Contact: Rob Enslin
rmenslin@syr.edu
315-443-3403
Syracuse University
Source:Eurekalert  

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