New research looks at novel ways to combat drug resistance

March 27, 2013

University of Southampton biological scientists are leading a major research project aimed at making drugs more effective.

They are investigating a group of proteins called 'multidrug transporters', which remove unwanted and toxic material from cells. Normally these proteins protect cells from toxins, but multidrug transporters also prevent anticancer drugs from killing , particularly since the amount of these proteins is increased in cancer cells when they encounter such drugs. Related proteins also remove antibiotics from bacteria and remove herbicides from the plant cells of weeds leading to herbicide .

All cells are surrounded by a membrane made of molecules called lipids, which forms a barrier that prevents the movement of many important into and out of the cell. Embedded in this barrier are proteins that provide the cell with the ability to take in nutrients and remove waste and .

Dr Malcolm East, a Reader in Biochemistry, who is leading the research with Dr Howard Barton, a Reader in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, says: "Besides ejecting waste material, cells also remove drugs, which make them less effective as treatments. We believe that a particular group of lipids, called anionic lipids, within cell membranes play a role in controlling the of certain membrane proteins. We want to know how lipids interact with proteins and how that affects their ability to transport drugs.

"Understanding these mechanisms could suggest ways of improving the effectiveness of antibiotics, anti-malarial drugs and cancer treatments and boost the action of herbicides and pesticides."

Anionic lipids in the membrane change in amount and distribution when cells respond to changes in their environment. By labelling different proteins and lipids, the scientists can determine which lipids have a closer relationship with the multidrug transporter and how it affects the drug transporting ability of the protein.

Dr Barton adds: "These studies will tell us how signals are transmitted to by changes in membrane lipid composition and distribution.. In addition a greater understanding of how multidrug transporters are controlled by lipids, may suggest ways in which these proteins can be controlled by the use of novel drugs that would also interact with these multidrug transporters. This could help to tackle treatment failures caused by the serious problems of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and resistance to seen with repeated rounds of chemotherapy. A similar approach could be taken to provide strategies for reducing the resistance seen with a whole range of important molecules, including pesticides, herbicides and anti-malarials."

Dr East and Dr Barton have won £287,000 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for the three-year project.

Explore further: Technology reveals 'lock and key' proteins behind diseases

Related Stories

Chemists get grip on slippery lipids

August 30, 2007

The ability of the body's cells to correctly receive and convey signals is crucial to good health. Lipids, or fats, play a critical role in this regulation by providing spaces for proteins to gather and network. They are ...

The future of drug development

September 3, 2010

John Engen, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at the Northeastern University, is at the forefront of research that will advance drug discovery and development by making it easier to analyze certain kinds ...

From shape-shifting to therapy

March 12, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—The latest research into the intricate processes that let substances into and out of cells will help to lay the foundations for the next generation of therapies for major diseases.

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

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.