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Solving the Z ring's mysteries may lead to new antibiotics
Date:4/8/2008

A team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has solved important puzzles concerning how certain proteins guide the reproduction of bacteria, discoveries that could lead to a new type of antibiotics.

In a recent study published in the journal Current Biology, the scientists reported how a belt-like structure called a Z ring, which pinches a rod-shaped bacterium to produce two offspring, can be disabled by a protein called MinC. By exploiting this vulnerability, the researchers said, pharmaceutical companies may find a way to fight infections that no longer respond to older medications.

The potential medical applications of our discovery are significant, said Alex Dajkovic, lead author of the paper. Because the molecules involved in cell division are very similar in almost all bacteria, the process we uncovered provides a new target for the people who make antibiotics. This is extremely important because antibiotic resistance is on the rise, and many preventable deaths, especially in the developing world, are caused by bacterial infections.

Dajkovic helped make the discoveries as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Denis Wirtz, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. Dajkovic is now a researcher at Institut Curie in Paris.

Wirtz, who also is associate director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, noted that most antibiotics target the ability of bacteria to build their cell walls or their ability to make proteins or DNA. With this paper, Alex and the rest of the team identified new molecular targets that could disrupt bacterial cell division. If the bacteria cant reproduce, the infection will die.

The researchers focused on the rod-shaped bacterium E. coli, commonly found in the human digestive tract, which serves as a model organism for study of basic bacterial processes. When these single-celled microbes want to multiply, a structure
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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert  

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