Saturday 25 July 2020

Novel way to produce potential antibiotic compounds

Researchers have developed a method to spur the production of new antibiotic or antiparasitic compounds hiding in the genomes of actinobacteria, which are the source of the drugs actinomycin and streptomycin and are known to harbor other untapped chemical riches. Nair and his colleagues wanted to determine how such hormones influence the production of antibiotics in actinobacteria. By exposing their bacteria to the right hormone or combination of hormones, the researchers hope to spur the microbes to produce new compounds that are medically useful.

The researchers focused on avenolide, a hormone that is more chemically stable than one used in earlier studies of bacterial hormones. Avenolide regulates the production of an antiparasitic compound known as avermectin in a soil microbe. A chemically modified version of this compound, ivermectin, is used as a treatment for river blindness, a disease transmitted by flies that blinded millions of people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, before the drug was developed.

For the new study, the scientists developed a more streamlined process for synthesizing avenolide in the lab than was previously available. This allowed the team to study the hormone's interactions with its receptor both inside and outside bacterial cells.


Iti Kapoor, Philip Olivares, Satish K Nair. Biochemical basis for the regulation of biosynthesis of antiparasitics by bacterial hormones. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.57824

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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