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New potential drug target in tuberculosis

ielded important clues about its activity. Qingjun Ma from Wilmanns' group purified LipB and obtained crystals of the molecule. Using the high-energy synchrotron radiation beamlines at EMBL Hamburg, on the campus of the German Electron Synchrotron Radiation Facility (DESY), he created an atom-by-atom map of the protein's structure. A high-resolution picture of the active site of LipB bound to a lipid inhibitor helped to determine the function of the enzyme. In collaboration with EMBL's Proteomics Core Facility in Heidelberg and researchers from the University of Illinois (USA), the Hamburg group discovered how LipB attaches specific fatty acids onto other proteins.

"LipB is a very promising drug target," Wilmanns says, "because it belongs to a vital pathway. Unlike other organisms M. tuberculosis has no backup mechanism that could take over LipB's role. This means that an inhibitor blocking its active site would shut down key processes the bacterium needs to survive and replicate. This would be a very effective strategy for a drug."

The scientists will now search for compounds that can do so. At the same time, they are continuing to look for other proteins as drug targets. Wilmanns and his colleagues from various other institutes are now focusing on structures of molecules that help M. tuberculosis to persist in its dormant state and could become drug targets.


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Source:European Molecular Biology Laboratory


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