Saturday, April 08, 2006

A New way to kill bacteria?

University of California San Diego scientists used a fluorescent tag on messenger RNA (mRNA) (not at all like the GFP tags used to make pigs glow in the dark) to look at the structure of the translation initiation complex in bacteria. Why is this important you ask?

Because different proteins and molecules are involved in initiating translation in bacteria than in humans, the authors propose it may be possible to desing specific drug molecules that will bind to the bacterial proteins and inhibit translation, effectively killing the bacteria, without having an effect on human cells. This is important, because the mechanism should be the same in all bacteria, therefore making any drugs developed universal antibiotics, making a possible way to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria (or we could give antibiotics only to people who actually need them). And it would keep from killing human cells as well, many current antibiotics will kill human and bacterial cells, they just kill bacteria faster, making treatment a race and hoping the bacteria die off first. I don't know if that will really be possible, or if any new drugs will come about because of this research, but it is some neat stuff.

This is a great example of how traditional molecular biology is still a part of biological research, as more and more people turn to high throughput methods to study everything simultaneously, as mentioned in the article about my own research. This just proves that both methods have their place, and one is not necessarily better than the other, but each has their place in research.

More detail about how what the researchers found for those who are interested:
In the process of making protein, DNA is transcribed to mRNA by RNA polymerases, and mRNA is translated to protein by ribosomes. The interesting thing is that mRNA tends to fold in on itself due to intramolecular hydrogen bonding, thereby making it difficult to for the ribosomes and other parts of the translation initiation complex to bind and actually start the process of making proteins. The authors research described a very important part of the process in order to get this to happen. It turns out that several proteins as well as the 30S ribosome must bind to the mRNA in order to get it to unfold, without using chemical energy derived from GTP or ATP, unlike in eukaryotes (humans, other multicellular organisms) (this is the process acording to the authors).
Science / Tech News_

[Listening to: Break Your Heart - Barenaked Ladies - Rock Spectacle (5:06)]

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