New way to overcome antibiotic resistance

Scientists from FAU and the University of Oxford have discovered a new regulatory checkpoint in bacterial gene expression.

Close up of different pills. Selective focus
Close up of different pills. Selective focus

On average, 700,000 people die every year due to antibiotic resistance because of the treatment with antibiotics is not effective. In order to bring completely starting point in developing antibiotics, scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the University of Oxford have now discovered that there is a point in the production process of the proteins at which it can be regulated by bacteria.

This new discovery is expected to be a starting point for the development of new antibiotics and help overcome resistance to antibiotics.

The FAU team led by Dr. David Dulin and the team led by Achillefs Kapanidis at the University of Oxford have discovered that the early phase of ribonucleic acid (RNA) production is the key to controlling the regulation of bacterial gene expression. Gene expression is the term used to describe how a gene product coded by a gene is formed . These products are often proteins or RNA molecules.

Dr. Dulin expects that the drug could be a completely new starting point in developing antibiotics.

Since this generation of RNA is basic for the survival of the bacteria, it has just been the subject of serious research and utilized as the beginning stage for creating antibiotic drugs, for instance for the treatment of tuberculosis. Nonetheless, it is still unclear that how the production of RNA is also regulated at the stage of early transcription when RNAP has just begun to join together the first few RNA building blocks. This was the subject of the research carried out by the team of scientists.

During the study, scientists used high-end fluorescence microscopy, which enabled them to screen individual RNAP atoms as they created RNA. They found that the underlying RNA amalgamation is unequivocally controlled – a specific arrangement of DNA powers the RNAP to stop for a few seconds. It can just proceed with RNA creation after stopping for a moment.

Dr. Dulin said, “This discovery completely changes our previous understanding of initial RNA synthesis in bacteria. The fact that the RNAP can be simultaneously bound to the DNA and the short piece of RNA for a longer period of time was very surprising, as it contradicts current knowledge. The discovery of this new checkpoint in gene expression could be used for the development of new antibiotics. For example, it may be possible to develop a medication that locks the RNAP in the paused state, thus killing the bacteria that cause illnesses.”

The discovery made by scientists, which has now been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.