Monday, 20 January 2014

Clever chemistry and a new class of antibiotics

As concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics grow, researchers are racing to find new kinds of drugs to replace ones that are no longer effective. One promising new class of molecules called acyldepsipeptides - ADEPs - kills bacteria in a way that no marketed antibacterial drug does - by altering the pathway through which cells rid themselves of harmful proteins.

ADEPs kill bacteria by a mechanism by that is distinct from all clinically available anti-bacterial drugs. They work by binding to a protein in bacterial cells that acts as a "cellular garbage disposal,”. This barrel-shaped protein, called ClpP, breaks down proteins that are misfolded or damaged and could be harmful to the cell. However, when ClpP is bound by an ADEP, it's no longer so selective about the proteins it degrades. In essence, the binding by ADEP causes the garbage disposal to run amok and devour healthy proteins throughout the cell. For bacteria, a runaway ClpP is deadly.

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