October 23, 2008

Scientists Discover How Antibiotic Works

U.S. scientists say they've discovered how one highly effective antibiotic finds and destroys its targeted bacteria.

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers said their finding might have great implications for combating antibiotic resistance and promoting antibiotic efficiency.

Specifically, Professor Dimitry Vassylyev and colleagues found the place on bacteria where an antibiotic called myxopyronin launches its attack, and why that attack is successful. They determined myxopyronin binds to and inhibits a crucial bacterial enzyme, RNA polymerase, that's used by all living organisms to transfer genetic instructions stored in DNA to messenger RNA. If RNA polymerase is not functioning properly, the bacteria die.

"Prior to this work, we knew myxopyronin killed bacteria, but we did not know the precise way it accomplished this task," Vassylyev said. "Now we know it binds with RNA polymerase at a specific segment and by doing so, it prevents the bacteria from reproducing. This tells us a great deal about how the antibiotic works, but tells us even more about the workings of RNA polymerase."

The study that included researchers at Ohio State University, New York University and Anadys Pharmaceuticals Inc. appears in the online issue of the journal Nature.