Navigation Links
Scientists trick bacteria with small molecules

New Haven, Conn.A team of Yale University scientists has engineered the cell wall of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, tricking it into incorporating foreign small molecules and embedding them within the cell wall.

The finding, described online in the journal ACS Chemical Biology this week, represents the first time scientists have engineered the cell wall of a pathogenic "Gram-positive" bacteriaorganisms responsible not only for Staph infections but also pneumonia, strep throat and many others. The discovery could pave the way for new methods of combating the bacteria responsible for many of the most infectious diseases.

The team engineered one end of their small molecules to contain a peptide sequence that would be recognized by the bacteria. In Staphylococcus aureus, an enzyme called sortase A is responsible for attaching proteins to the cell wall.

"We sort of tricked the bacteria into incorporating something into its cell wall that it didn't actually make," said David Spiegel, a Yale chemist who led the study. "It's as if the cell thought the molecules were its own proteins rather than recognizing them as something foreign."

The scientists focused specifically on the cell wall because it contains many of the components the cell uses to relate to its environment, Spiegel said. "By being able to manipulate the cell wall, we can in theory perturb the bacteria's ability to interact with human tissues and host cells."

The team used three different small molecules in their experiment including biotin, fluorescein and azide but the technique could be used with other molecules, Spiegel said, as well as with other types of bacteria. Another advantage to the new technique is that the scientists did not have to first genetically modify the bacteria in any way in order for them to incorporate the small molecules, meaning the method should work on naturally occurring bacteria in the human body.

Staph infections, such as the drug-resistant MRSA, have plagued hospitals in recent years. More Americans die each year from Staphylococcus aureus infections alone than from HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease or emphysema.

Being able to engineer the cell walls of not only Staphylococcus aureus but a whole family of bacteria could have widespread use in combating these illnesses, Spiegel said, adding that any number of small molecules could be used with their technique. "For example, if we tag these bacteria with small fluorescent tracer molecules, we could watch the progression of disease in the human body in real time." The molecules could also be used to help recruit antibodies that occur naturally in the bloodstream, boosting the body's own immune response to diseases that tend to go undetected, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer.

"This technique has the potential to help illuminate basic biological processes as well as lead to novel therapeutics from some of the most common and deadly diseases affecting us today," Spiegel said.


Contact: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
Yale University

Related biology news :

1. DFG awards 4 young scientists 2010 Bernd Rendel Prize
2. Scripps Research scientists develop novel test that identifies river blindness
3. AgriLife Research scientists complete two-year study on short-day onions
4. MBL scientists reveal findings of World Ocean Microbe Census
5. Surprise: Scientists discover that inflammation helps to heal wounds
6. NOAA-sponsored scientists first to map offshore San Andreas Fault and associated ecosystems
7. Scripps Research scientists win $65 million in new grants to reveal form and function of proteins
8. Chromosomal break gives scientists a break in finding new puberty gene
9. Scientists discover a new way our bodies control blood pressure: the P450-EET system
10. Scientists reveal important clues to how bacteria and viruses are identified as enemies
11. Going green: New program provides vital support for plant scientists
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/2/2015)... PARK, Calif. , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI ... $9 million to provide preclinical development services to the ... the contract, SRI will provide scientific expertise, modern testing ... wide variety of preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to ... --> The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., today ... distribution of its DNA library preparation products, including ... new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has been ... of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis of ... prognostic applications in cancer and other conditions. Eurofins ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 In the present ... of concern for various industry verticals such as banking, ... to the growing demand for secure & simplified access ... ,sectors, such as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of ... equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Pittcon is pleased to announce the 2016 ... symposia, oral sessions, workshops, awards, and posters. The core of the Technical ... as, but not limited to, biotechnology, biomedical, drug discovery, environmental, food science, fuels/energy, ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... -- PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE MKT: PIP) announced  today that its ... (Rights Plan) in an effort to preserve the value ... 382 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). ... its NOLs could be substantially limited if the Company ... of the Code. In general, an ownership change occurs ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; ... and prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the ... recently received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC ... of the final interim efficacy and safety data ... in men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LUMPUR, Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... global contract research organisation (CRO) market. The trend ... result in lower margins but higher volume share ... increased capacity and scale, however, margins in the ... Research Organisation (CRO) Market ( ), ...
Breaking Biology Technology: