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Scientists crack code of critical bacterial defense mechanism
Date:4/25/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio Scientists have combined chemistry and biology research techniques to explain how certain bacteria grow structures on their surfaces that allow them to simultaneously cause illness and protect themselves from the body's defenses.

The researchers are the first to reproduce a specific component of this natural process in a test tube an essential step to fully understanding how these structures grow.

With the new method described, these and other researchers now can delve even deeper into the various interactions that must occur for these structures called lipopolysaccharides to form, potentially discovering new antibiotic targets along the way.

Lipopolysaccharides are composed primarily of polysaccharides strings of sugars that are attached to bacterial cell surfaces. They help bacteria hide from the immune system and also serve as identifiers of a given type of bacteria, making them attractive targets for drugs. But before a drug can be designed to inhibit their growth, scientists must first understand how polysaccharides are developed in the first place.

"We were able to answer some of the questions about how components of this growth system do their jobs. This will allow us to more fully characterize lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis in vitro, a process which may shed light on useful targets for developing antibiotic agents," said Robert Woodward, a graduate student in chemistry at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

The study is published in the April 25 online edition of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

The researchers used a harmless strain of Escherichia coli as a model for this work, which would apply to other E. coli strains and similar Gram-negative bacteria, a reference to how their cell walls are structured.

The surface of these bacteria house the lipopolysaccharide, which is a three-part molecular structure embedded into the cell membrane. Tw
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Contact: Robert Woodward
woodward.69@osu.edu
614-292-8704
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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