AUG 03, 2017 04:51 PM PDT

Structural, Mechanistic Data Gives Insight Into Bacterial Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers have made major strides in our understanding of how bacteria can resist the action of antibiotics. These new findings, by the lab of Edward Yu at Iowa State University, describe the structure of efflux pumps, and mechanisms used by cell walls to render antimicrobials ineffective. The work is outlined in the video below and has been reported in two publications. This data will hopefully provide scientists with novel insight as new drugs are developed.

Bacteria have many crafty ways to evade antibiotics. “The structure and mechanism depend on the bacteria you're talking about - and the bacteria will find a way,” said Yu, an Iowa State professor who holds appointments in physics and astronomy, chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, and is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory.

In one of the new reports, published in Nature Communications, an efflux pump used by the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni bacterium is characterized. The bacterium is a common cause of food poisoning; it can cause diarrhea and intestinal inflammation, and it uses the pump to expel antibacterial drugs.

"We study a lot of efflux pumps to understand antibiotic resistance," said Yu. This particular pump uses three molecules that work together. "The three independent pumps make it a more powerful multidrug efflux pump," Yu noted.

This is a ribbon diagram of the three-part efflux pump of the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium. / Credit: Edward Yu/Iowa State University

In the other paper, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the investigators delve into an entirely different mechanism of resistance. "Cell wall remodeling is also a major mechanism to work against antibacterial drugs,” explained Yu.

Burkholderia multivorans bacterium is a known pathogen and has an innate resistance to antibiotics. It can strengthen and rearrange its cell wall to stop drugs from getting in. The bacterium can cause pneumonia in people with compromised immunity or lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, where it’s very harmful.

Yu has previously led work using X-ray crystallography to elucidate the structures of transporters, pumps, and regulators in microbes. His significant contributions to the understanding of such structures led the American Academy of Microbiology to elect him as an academy fellow this year.

A broad understanding of how bacterial structures are involved in antibiotic resistance and the mechanisms that bacteria use to halt the efficacy of drugs can now allow the research group to move on to a critical question. How can these transporters and pumps be controlled - and turned off? Finding an answer to that could be a boon to medicine.

"We're trying to find an inhibitor compound," Yu said. "We're thinking about doing a little more translational science. We have a lot of rich information about the structure and function of these pumps. Why not use it?"

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurkalert! Via Iowa State News, Nature Communications, PNAS

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 04, 2018
Videos
JUL 04, 2018
How Did Viruses Originate?
There is still a debate about whether or not viruses are a form of life, and we really don't know where they came from....
JUL 17, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 17, 2018
Understanding how Microbes Will Accelerate Climate Change
As permafrost starts to thaw out, it's exposing untold numbers of new bacteria, which can spew out methane....
JUL 27, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 27, 2018
Making Accurate Assessments of the Environmental Impact of Pollution
Without the right experimental design, behavioral testing can easily produce the wrong results....
SEP 03, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 03, 2018
A Cell Phone for the Microbiome
This work is a step toward bioengineering the microbes in the gut for improved human health....
OCT 02, 2018
Videos
OCT 02, 2018
Learning how Bacterial Chemicals Impact Human Health
We play host to a huge number of microbes, and all the chemicals that they produce....
OCT 02, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 02, 2018
Mycobacterial Lung Disease, FDA Approves New Drug
New drug seeking to treat antibiotic-resistant lung disease has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug is called ‘Arik...
Loading Comments...