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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Scientists discover new bacterial cell wall builders

Lines in this colorized image of Bacillus subtilis reflect the movement of a newly identified polyermase complex (including the SEDS protein) as it synthesizes hoops of bacterial cell wall material. Image: Rudner lab (Source: HMS)

Researchers from Harvard Medical School have identified a new enzyme that all bacteria use to build and maintain cell walls. The research was published recently in journal Nature. The study leaders David Rudner and Thomas Bernhardt believe that the second set of cell wall synthesizers can provide new insight of therapies by targeting harmful bacteria.

Almost half a century ago only penicillin binding proteins were known as cell wall synthesizers and until now a second family of proteins that is responsible for cell’s shape, elongation, division, and spore formation or SEDS were hidden.

To test their hypothesis that SEDS may involve in the synthesis of cell wall, Alexander Meeske, HMS graduate student and first author of the paper deleted all the penicillin binding proteins. SEDS yet continued move in much intense way. It looked like a missing enzymes. Later following experiments associating genetic and biochemical techniques confirmed that SEDS are indeed a new family of cell wall synthesizers.

Scientists also seen that two proteins SEDS and penicillin binding proteins respectively work in tandem, i.e. both are involved together in building the cell wall of bacteria. Most importantly, SEDS were more common in bacteria than penicillin binding proteins. Thus raising hopes for new potential antibiotic target.

“For a long time in the field, it was thought that one set of enzymes worked in one set of complexes to build a wall. Now we have two sets of enzymes appearing to work in different systems,” Bernhardt said. “Somehow they have to coordinate to build this netlike structure that maintains integrity and expands as the cells grow and divide.” (As reported to Elizabeth Cooney from HMS)

“Even though the history goes all the way back to the 1920s with penicillin, there’s plenty to learn,” Bernhardt said. “That’s what makes this so exciting,” Rudner said. “In this modern era of sequenced genomes, we’re still discovering new enzymes that work in this pathway.”



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