Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Quest for Designer Bacteria

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Quest for Designer Bacteria

Article excerpt

Scientists have discovered a molecular assistant called Spy that helps bacteria excel at producing proteins for medical and industrial purposes.

Bacteria are widely used to manufacture proteins used in medicine and industry--but the bugs often bungle the job. Many fall apart and get cut up inside the bacteria before they can be harvested. Others collapse into useless tangles instead of folding properly, which they must do to function normally.

A research team led by James Bardwell--a professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and biological chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Michigan--developed a way to coerce bacteria into making large quantities of stable, functional proteins. When exploring why these designer bacteria were so successful, the scientists discovered the molecular helper--Spy.

The research is published online in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. In the first phase of the research, the team designed biosensors that directly link protein stability to the antibiotic resistance of bacteria. When a poorly folded, unstable protein is inserted into the middle of the biosensor in a bacterium, it disrupts the bug's resistance to antibiotics. When the protein is stabilized, resistance is restored. …

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