Web Zap*Germs Archive

May 28, 2003

Secrets of Drug Resistance Revealed
Bacterial resistance to drugs -- even advanced antibiotics like methicillin, used to treat stubborn staph infections -- is a bit better understood now, thanks to research at the DOE Office of Science's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The team, which included Gerry McDermott, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division; Helen Zgurskaya of the University of Oklahoma; and Hiroshi Nikaido, Daniel Koshland, Jr., and Edward Yu of the University of California at Berkeley, made high-resolution x-ray images of a protein complex found in drug-resistant E. coli bacteria. They found that the protein, which acts as a pump to filter out toxins, is actually too efficient and can bind a number of molecules.

"The protein is a bit too efficient for our own good," said McDermott in a press release announcing their findings. "And our work demonstrates why. We suspect the protein's cavity possesses areas where many types of antibiotics could be captured."

The team plans further imaging work to learn more about how the protein works, and perhaps design an antibiotic molecule that can evade the pump's efficient function.


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