The overuse of antibiotics has created strains of bacteria resistant to medication, making the diseases they cause difficult to treat, or even deadly. But now a research team at the University of Rochester has identified a weakness in at least one superbug that scientists may be able to medically exploit.
Biologists Gloria Culver at Rochester and Keith Connolly, now at Harvard University, thought one key to stopping the bacteria may lie with proteins, so they studied the mechanism behind the development of bacterial ribosomesthe cell's protein-manufacturing machine.
"We targeted the ribosomes in our research because cells and organisms can't live if they don't make proteins, and they can't make proteins if their ribosomes aren't functioning properly." said Culver.
Culver and Connolly specifically worked with cultures of E. coli, a bacteria commonly found in the intestines. While E. coli is usually harmless, some strains are resistant to antibiotics and can cause serious food poisoning.
They discovered that two proteins already present in E. coli cellsRbfA and KsgAneed to be in balance with each other in order for ribosomes to function. If those proteins are present in the wrong concentrations, the ribosomes will not mature properly and will be unable to produce proteins, leading to the death of the cells. Their findings are being published this week in the journal Molecular Microbiology.
Culver said with the discovery that KsgA and RbfA.must be balanced for the cells to function properly, the next goal is to determine an effective way to disrupt that balance.
Crucially, RbfA does not exist in humans. "That may make it possible," Culver said," to kill E. coli without having a harmful effect on people."
Eric Brown, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., calls their work creative and scholarly. "Ribosome assemb
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University of Rochester