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Novel Technique May Lead to Design of New and Improved Antibiotics

Scientists at the University of North Carolina say they have discovered a way to make precise changes to an enzyme-driven “assembly line” allowing researchers to improve or change the properties of an existing antibiotic. Their findings being the first to successfully and efficiently manipulate which building blocks the enzyme selects in the act of synthesizing erythromycin.

Bottom Line:

  • By enhancing existing antibiotics we affect not only the amount of time it takes for new drugs to be created but also the cost.

  • By manipulating the function of each module in the enzyme assembly line scientists will be allowed to design man-made molecules allowing pharmaceutical priorities to be fine-tuned.

  • The study “Inversion of Extender Unit Selectivity in the Erythromycin Polyketide Synthase by Acyltransferase Domain Engineering” will be published in ACS Chemical Biology.

 “Instead of a hatchet, our method is more surgical, making small but impactful changes to the module that won’t change its overall function while allowing us to fine tune the portions of the compound that we select. We want to apply this same approach to alter other groups in the structure so that we could diversify and modify other properties of the antibiotic. We believe that this approach will prove a powerful tool in constructing new designer compounds with pinpoint accuracy.” Gavin Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of bio-organic chemistry at NC State


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