Navigation Links
To control germs, scientists deploy tiny agents provocateurs

Aiming to thwart persistent bacterial infections and better control group behaviors of certain microorganisms, scientists are creating artificial chemicals that infiltrate and sabotage bacterial "mobs."

Reporting the work here today (March 13) at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Helen Blackwell described the ongoing construction of a new class of molecules that conduct such chemical warfare.

Targeting natural signaling mechanisms in bacterial cells, Blackwell aims to ultimately control the formation of biofilms, goo-like amalgamations of bacteria that are widespread in nature and have serious implications for agriculture and human health. Biofilms form the green slime on rocks, the plaque on human teeth and the slippery film on ship hulls. If a single cell were analogous to one man, biofilms would be the "bacterial equivalent of mob mentality," says Blackwell.

In the realm of health, biofilms are at the root of growing numbers of tenacious, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections, says Blackwell. Indeed, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study last year reported that almost 80 percent of bacterial infections are in the biofilm forma.

Biofilms can often constitute several species of bacteria and can be both harmful and beneficial. In one role, biofilms can coat plant roots and symbiotically aid ecological processes such as nitrogen fixation. But at the darker end of the scale, biofilms can form infection-inducing layers on implanted medical devices and cause deadly lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Biofilms have long baffled researchers because of their stupefying capacity to behave like a "super-organism" that vetoes the normal characteristics of a bacterial cell in favor of new group behaviors. "It's amazing that such simple organisms as bacteria can form these super-colonies that work together in such sophisticated ways," says Blackwell.

Scientists have learned that bacteria sense each other and the overall density of their colony by continuously exchanging small molecules and peptides - a process known as quorum sensing. Past a certain density threshold, the colonies unite to initiate group behaviors, such as biofilm formation.

Attempting to manipulate quorum sensing in both plant and animal bacteria, Blackwell and her team are designing new compounds that mimic acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs), a natural molecule that is used by more than 50 species of bacteria to "talk." Researchers have so far studied around 15 variations of AHLs. In particular, the UW chemists are synthesizing molecules that interact with a specific class of proteins that are linked to AHLs and are critical in quorum sensing.

"We want to design molecules to confuse bacteria so they can't sense their neighbors," says Blackwell, "but some types of quorum sensing are beneficial, so we are simultaneously searching for compounds that selectively turn on group behaviors."

Using new combinatorial chemistry techniques, Blackwell and her team are screening through hundreds of molecules at a time. The researchers have so far unveiled three promising organic compounds that seemingly quell bacterial signaling.


Source:University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related biology news :

1. Ancient olfaction protein is shared by many bugs, offering new pest control target
2. Gene variations explain drug dose required to control seizures
3. U-M scientists find genes that control growth of common skin cancer
4. Scientists discuss improved biopesticides for locust control in West Africa
5. Insight into natural cholesterol control suggests novel cholesterol-lowering therapy
6. Cooperation is key—a new way of looking at MicroRNA and how it controls gene expression
7. Master gene controls healing of skin in fruit flies and mammals
8. Remote control flies? Fly behavior controlled by laser light
9. Internet viruses help ecologists control invasive species
10. DNA constraints control structure of attached macromolecules
11. How exactly does the brain control breathing?
Post Your Comments:

(Date:11/17/2015)... SOUTH EASTON, Mass. , Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... "Company"), a leader in the development and sale of ... to the worldwide life sciences industry, today announced it ... closing of its $5 million Private Placement (the "Offering"), ... Offering to $4,025,000.  One or more additional closings are ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever that stayed ... dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead for treating ... the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the ... . Cell, pinpoints a protective ... the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab of ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... Nov. 11, 2015   Growing need for ... tools has been paving the way for use ... of discrete analytes in clinical, agricultural, environmental, food ... predominantly used in medical applications, however, their adoption ... due to continuous emphasis on improving product quality ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , Nov. 24, 2015 ... executives will be speaking at the following conference, and ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ...      Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference, New York, NY ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... International Society for ... of the premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference ... ISPE hosted the largest number of attendees in more than a decade. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and AdVenture Capital brought together dozens ... BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools. , Now, the top ... of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl 50, and an ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced that its Annual General Meeting of ... Israel time, at the law offices of Goldfarb ... Floor, Tel Aviv, Israel . ... Tamir to the Board of Directors; , election of ... of an amendment to certain terms of options granted to our Chief ...
Breaking Biology Technology: