Throughout the next four years, researchers at the Indiana University Northwest School of Medicine in Gary will use a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to explore how a group of proteins within the body employ a “molecular trick” that causes bacteria to destroy itself.
The grant, awarded recently to principal investigator Roman Dziarski and his team, enables them to follow up on their 2011 discovery. They found that proteins from human immune cells known as PGRPs (short for Peptidoglycan Recognition Proteins) bind to bacteria, but instead of inhibiting synthesis as penicillin and other antibiotics do, the bacteria becomes increasingly stressed as it attempts to dislodge the PGRPs.
“As they try to do this, they become more and more stressed and eventually use up all their energy and die. But how exactly this happens is not known,” Dziarski said. “The aim of this newly funded research project is to answer this question and solve the biochemical mechanism for how bacteria treated with PGRPs kill themselves … so in the future we can design simpler drugs that use the same trick to kill bacteria.”
The study carries particular commercial relevance because traditional antibiotic development has slowed in recent years and those that do exist are increasingly harder to improve, Dziarski said.
“There is a need to discover alternative approaches to prevention and treatment of bacterial infections, to find new types of antibacterial agents and identify new mechanisms that can kill bacteria or prevent bacterial infections.”
Read more about Dziarski and his research team’s efforts here.