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Research provides new leads in the case against drug-resistant biofilms
Date:11/10/2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] When a foreign object such as a catheter enters the body, bacteria may not only invade it but also organize into a slick coating a biofilm that is highly resistant to antibiotics. Like sophisticated organized crime rings, biofilms cannot be defeated by a basic approach of conventional means. Instead doctors and drug developers need sophisticated new intelligence that reveals the key players in the network and how they operate. New research led by biologists at Brown University provides exactly that dossier on some key proteins in the iconic bacterium E. coli.

In a paper published this week in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers describe a couple of prime suspect genes and the "toxin-antitoxin" protein pair they produce. By analyzing the structure and binding of the proteins in the exquisite detail of atomic-scale X-ray crystallography, the team at Brown and Texas A&M University makes the case that "MqsR" and "MqsA" proteins are important operators worth targeting in hopes of disrupting the formation of biofilms.

"Developing new antibiotics has been very difficult, and they all pretty much target the same few proteins," said corresponding author Rebecca Page, assistant professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown. "Our proteins belong to a family of proteins that have never been investigated for their ability to lead to novel sets of antibiotics. This really provides a new avenue."

The main role of the combination, or complex, of MqsA and MqsR is that they appear to control the transcription of many genes, including ones that govern the growth of "persister" cells, which provide biofilms with a mesh of antibiotic-resistant constituents. In normal populations, persisters are one in a million. In biofilms, they are one in a hundred.

"The MqsR:MqsA complex not only binds its own genetic promoter, but also binds and regulates the promot
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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