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News

New, classier route to killing superbugs

Society For General Microbiology : 29 March, 2004  (New Product)
Scientists from the New Jersey University of Medicine and Dentistry have discovered a whole new class of enzymes which may represent a major advance in understanding the way bacterial cells self destruct under stress, researchers will hear at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.
Scientists from the New Jersey University of Medicine and Dentistry have discovered a whole new class of enzymes which may represent a major advance in understanding the way bacterial cells self destruct under stress, researchers will hear at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.

'These enzymes, called messenger RNA interferases, attack extremely accurately targeted sequences in bacterial messenger RNA', says Professor Masoyori Inouye of the Department of Biochemistry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, USA. 'When these interferases attack they split the bacteria cell's genetic material, its RNA, cleanly, completely stopping the microbe from making protein vital for its cell growth, which eventually kills the bacteria stone dead'.

The US scientists have demonstrated for the first time that bacteria contain unique enzymes, which can interfere with the genetic material governing the transfer of information within a cell. This enzyme plays a major role in bacterial cell death, leading to the hope that synthetic versions of the enzyme could be produced which would target multi-drug resistant bacteria, a serious threat in hospital infections.

'This is the first enzyme discovered which cuts messenger RNA at a specific sequence. When bacteria are persuaded to make the enzyme, virtually all the messenger RNA inside the bacterial cell is chopped up, without seriously affecting any of the other protein making machinery', says Prof Inouye.

The extremely accurate targeting of the interferase may make this new class of enzymes a powerful method of stopping dangerous bacteria dead, and will also provide a new range of tools for gene therapy and biotechnology.
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