New type of antibiotic agent causes bacteria to commit suicide

Researchers at Boston University and MIT have discovered a new type of antibiotic agent that causes bacteria to eventually kill themselves.

Researchers at Boston University and MIT have discovered a new type of antibiotic agent that causes bacteria to eventually kill themselves.

The researchers found that the drug hydroxyurea kills bacteria by inducing them to produce materials toxic to themselves.

The drug is known for inhibiting the enzyme critical for making the building blocks for DNA. For decades, it has been used to halt DNA replication in E. coli, yeast and cancerous cells.

Led by MIT biologist Graham Walker and BU bioengineer James Collins, the research team showed that the DNA replication caused in cells by hydroxyurea treatment sets a chain of cellular events in motion that results in the production of hydroxyl radicals. These radicals damage cellular molecules such as nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, which could eventually kill the cell.

In the study, the researchers administered hydroxyurea to E. coli, provoking a DNA repair system referred to as SOS response. This process keeps the cells alive for several hours, but produces hydroxyl radicals that eventually kill the bacteria.

Collins has also found that three different antibiotics also cause the production of hydroxyl radicals. The findings could aid in the development of adjuvants, molecules that enhance the effectiveness of current antibiotics.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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