A workforce that never gets tired
02 November 2006
A new kind of worker that never gets tired could revolutionise the drug industry - bacteria.
The research is reported in the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Chemical Communications.
Dr Greg Challis and a team at Warwick University say that feeding bacteria with simple organic raw materials for a required drug could give the desired product -and remove the need for complex and costly chemical synthesis methods.
Their work focussed on the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor - which naturally produce antibiotics called prodiginines. The team fed precursors of the prodiginine compounds to mutant S. coelicolor bacteria that had been genetically engineered to be deficient in certain enzymes.
Dr Challis said: "Depending on whether or not the bacteria produced the expected prodiginines we could identify which enzymes were involved in various stages of the metabolic pathway."
The team believes these "feeding" experiments could also be used to get the bacteria to make variants on the natural prodiginines.
A colony of S. coelicolor bacteria that could be used to make a prodiginine such as streptorubin (shown in yellow)
Dr Challis said: "This combines the strength of organic synthesis with the synthetic power of biology to assemble highly complex and synthetically difficult structures."
The group believe the approach will be particularly useful for generating analogues of streptorubin B (a prodiginine), which are difficult to make using current techniques.
Dr Challis said: "In the future, we envisage that other biosynthetic pathways to complex natural products will be discovered using similar types of approaches."with thanks to Michael Smith for the original article
A E Stanley, L J Walton, M K Zerikly, C Corre and G L Challis, Chem. Commun., 2006
Micro-organisms could be employed to make drugs that are too complicated to synthesise chemically, say UK chemists.
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