Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Ribosome freeze frame offers new perspective on microbial defenses

ribosome250.jpgWith an estimated 175,000 deaths attributed to hospital-acquired infections each year in Europe alone and a dwindling arsenal of effective antibiotics to combat these superbugs, researchers have been striving to develop new antibacterial medicines. But these efforts have been hampered by scientists’ limited understanding of the basic molecular machinery that microbes use to thwart medicine’s best weapons.

To gain a better picture of how pesky pathogens such as Escherichia coli generate defensive proteins, a team led by structural biologist Jamie Doudna Cate at the University of California-Berkeley turned to X-ray crystallography to obtain molecular snapshots of E. coli’s protein-producing ribosomes in action. Using these pictures, reported today in Science, Doudna Cate says researchers may be able to develop new antibiotics that stick a wrench in the ribosome’s works.

”There are a lot of great drugs out there but there are also bacteria becoming resistant to all of them,” Doudna Cate told Nature Medicine. “We need more targets.”

Image courtesy of Science/AAAS


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