"This is an extremely interesting discovery that may have the potential to lead to a novel drug, but an extraordinary amount of additional research is needed before we will know. We can hope," said David J. Newman, D.Phil., chief of the National Cancer Institute's Natural Products Branch, who was not involved in the research. "Luesch has found a novel compound and a novel mechanism of action that stops the secretion of the receptor and the growth factor as far as I am aware, this mechanism has only been shown in apratoxin at this time. If nothing else, he has shown us a new way to kill tumor cells and has revealed a new chemistry, and those are important steps."
Apratoxin is produced by cyanobacteria, microbes that have evolved toxins to fend off predators and cope with harsh conditions in a marine environment. Collectively known as blue-green algae a misnomer because the single-celled organisms are not algae or members of the plant kingdom a wide variety of cyanobacteria species exists in both sea and freshwater environments.
Like plants, cyanobacteria convert sunlight into energy through a process known as photosynthesis. But where plants exclusively use a green pigment called chlorophyll to capture light to make food, cyanobacteria also use a bluish pigment called phycocyanin.
In addition, cyanobacteria have the unique ability to use respiration as well as photosynthesis to acquire energy, making these organisms tiny chemical factories capable of producing many as-yet unidentified molecules that may be useful for health applications.
"Marine cyanobacteria produce a huge diversity of compounds," said Luesch, who is also a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center. "About half of anticancer drugs are based on natural products. All but a couple of the
|Contact: John Pastor|
University of Florida