New antibiotic could be based on E. coli protein

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antibioticResearchers at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered a protein in two different strains of bacteria that can control cell division. Once these proteins are isolated and studied more closely, they could be the basis for new antibiotics that could stop bacterial cell division, killing the cells.

The bacteria, Bacillis subtilis and Escherichia coli, have similar proteins that can sense food availability.  Bacterial cells can take advantage of plentiful food sources using these sensors to increase and multiply. They can double their population regularly and quickly, once every 17 minutes in E. coli, until the food is gone. If food is abundant, the proteins block assembly of constriction rings that the cells use to pinch themselves into two daughter cells, completing a round of cell division.

Understanding how these cell division components work together can aid in discovery of antibiotics to block cell division permanently. If the group is successful in learning how the protein disrupts the constriction ring’s assembly, an antibiotic could be developed using the same mechanism to kill the bacteria in this way.

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