Tuesday, 13 January 2015

New penicillin mechanism revealed

One of the oldest and most widely used antibiotics, penicillin, attacks enzymes that build the bacterial cell wall. Researchers have now shown that penicillin and its variants also set in motion a toxic malfunctioning of the cell's wall-building machinery, dooming the cell to a futile cycle of building and then immediately destroying that wall.

Penicillin and its variants also set in motion a toxic malfunctioning of the cell's wall-building machinery, which dooms the cell to a futile cycle of building and then immediately destroying that wall. This downstream death spiral depletes cells of the resources they need to survive.

There are two parts to the wall-assembly process: synthesizing new strands of linked sugars and then linking them into the expanding matrix. Beta-lactam drugs work by blocking the enzymes that build cross-links, weakening the wall. The wall cannot hold together, so the bacterial cell bursts and dies.

For further details see:

Hongbaek Cho, Tsuyoshi Uehara, Thomas G. Bernhardt. Beta-Lactam Antibiotics Induce a Lethal Malfunctioning of the Bacterial Cell Wall Synthesis Machinery. Cell, 2014; 159 (6): 1300 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.11.017

Posted by Tim Sandle