Protein discovery may bolster antibiotic development

June 25, 2008
Protein discovery may bolster antibiotic development
Biochemistry professor Zongchao Jia's lab has discovered the 3-D structure of an elusive bacterial enzyme. Courtesy: Queens University

A team of scientists from Queen’s University has discovered the first ever three-dimensional structure of a protein family that may help in developing more effective antibiotics.

Led by Biochemistry professor Zongchao Jia, an expert in protein crystallography, the team’s focus is on an enzyme called tyrosine kinase derived from bacteria. “For years, bacteria were thought to have less sophisticated signaling systems than those found in mammals,” says Dr. Jia, Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology. “But now we know that isn’t true.”

The findings are published in the prestigious journal, EMBO J, and are featured as an Editors’ Choice in the current edition of Science. Also on the team from the Queen’s Biochemistry Department are Daniel Lee and Jimin Zheng, and Dr. Yi-Min She from the Chemistry Department.

The Queen's team created a crystal that provided the first glimpse of the elusive kinase structure. This is considered a milestone as the bacterial enzyme shows a completely different structure from kinases found in mammals.

Kinases are enzymes responsible for regulating or controlling a protein's function, most often acting as a switch signal between "on" and "off". By adding the appropriate amount of phosphate to its own protein "tail" this particular enzyme will turn on. Using the same strategy, the enzyme regulates the assembly of the protective bacterial capsule, which also contributes to antibiotic resistance.

Finding the crystal that would explain this process proved to be a considerable challenge, the researchers acknowledge. A laboratory at the University of Michigan, pursuing the same crystal, sent a letter of congratulations when they learned the Queen’s lab had succeeded first. “That doesn’t always happen in our competitive world!” says Dr. Jia with a laugh.

Source: Queens University

Explore further: Toothpaste significantly reduces dental plaque and inflammation throughout the body

Related Stories

Identifying drug targets for leukaemia

April 25, 2016

Researchers from Hong Kong and the U.S. have developed a new statistical and mapping method that could help identify drug targets for treating leukaemia.

Recommended for you

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.