Synthetic Protein Could Be Key in Battle against Disease
ESF scientists contribute to new publication
Posted December 2017
A synthetic protein that disrupts the ability of bacteria to perform basic life functions - moving, eating, attaching to hosts - could be a key to fighting infectious disease and preventing bacteria from evolving into drug-resistant pathogens.
A recent publication in the journal "Scientific Reports" details how a group of scientists at universities in Syracuse, New York, and Ottawa, Ontario, used a protein produced in the laboratory to muddle a bacterium's ability to regulate when certain genes are turned on, or "expressed" to use the scientists' term. Those genes allow bacteria to do things they need to do to stay alive, such as use whip-like appendages called flagella to move to a hospitable location, consume the protein that sustains them and produce the biofilms that allow them to stick together and cling to a host. Some genes allow bacteria to avoid death by antibiotics by pumping the compounds back outside of the cell.
The lead author on the paper is Dr. Megan G. Lloyd of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Also contributing to the study were Dr. Benjamin R. Lundgren, a post-doctoral researcher at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and Dr. Christopher Nomura, a professor of chemistry and vice president for research at ESF; Jennifer F. Moffat of SUNY Upstate; and Clayton W. Hall, Luke B.-P. Gagnon and Thien-Fah Mah of the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University of Ottawa.
The experiments involved a strain of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen found worldwide. It infects cystic fibrosis patients and people with compromised immune systems, and causes disease in soft tissues and burns.
The authors stated that the bacteria is naturally resistant to many antibiotics, including certain penicillins and cephalosporins, and easily acquires resistance through mutations or acquisition of genes. It has been identified on a recently released World Health Organization "Global Priority List" as a critical pathogen and top priority for research and development of new antibiotics. In addition, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that increased antibiotic resistance in the bacteria limits effective treatments in hospital-acquired infections, highlighting the need for novel antimicrobials.
"Preventing the expression or activity of virulence factors has emerged as a promising approach to identify and develop novel agents that would impair the ability ofP. aeruginosa to cause disease," the scientists wrote.
"We've shown that there's a mechanism through which we can slow the progress of bacteria in causing disease," Nomura said. "And it could potentially inhibit the mechanism that creates resistance to antibiotics, which is obviously a huge concern."
The finding has great potential to benefit the medical field, although Nomura stressed the discovery is not a medical treatment - at least, not yet. The reaction can be obtained only in a lab, where scientists have the ability to control the way the protein attaches to the DNA sequence of a bacterium.
"This synthetic peptide can be turned on at various times in the growth of bacteria," Nomura said. "But right now, it still has to be done in a laboratory, where we can control its expression. There's no way yet to deliver it, for instance, to a bacterial infection that might be making someone sick."
Although the researchers studied the protein's affect on only one species of bacteria, the findings would likely apply to other pathogenic bacteria. "With the spread of antibiotic resistance increasing, it is important to have as many tools as possible to address the issue. The development of this synthetic peptide will help with this process," said Nomura.
ESF Faculty Recognized for Excellence and Achievement
- Community Stewards to Receive ESF’s Feinstone AwardGeorge W. Curry, William H. McAvoy committed to building a vibrant community
- CCLP Honored for Landscape Preservation Project in CaliforniaCultural Landscape Report earns Preservation Design Award
- American Fisheries Society Honors RinglerLongtime professor receives award for teaching
- Study in ‘Nature’ Details Global Land ChangeESF professor, co-authors state changes ‘reflect a human-dominated Earth system’
- Wagner Receives College Foundation Teaching AwardCited for dedication to students, professionalism
- Dr. Timothy Volk Named Exemplary Researcher at ESFWork in sustainable energy and energy systems recognized
- ESF Staff, Faculty Honored by SUNY ChancellorCommitment to students, professionalism recognized
- SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints Interim President of ESFDr. David C. Amberg brings expertise in research, science and administration to college
- AEC’s McNulty Named President of OBFSOrganization supports field stations, research
- ESF Welcomes Camp Fire Professor of Wildlife ConservationDr. Jerrold Belant joins faculty for fall semester
- ESF Lists Top 10 New Species for 2018New to science: plants, animals and microbes that have ‘found a way to survive against the odds’
- Researchers Find Whole Genome Duplication Has Occurred Many Times during Evolution of InsectsESF scientist joins team in publishing findings
- Nomura Group Recognized for Top ArticleTop 100 most-read microbiology papers in Scientific Reports for 2017
- ESF Team among Finalists for $2.5M Canals Competition NPYA celebrates finalists at ESF event
- ESF Professor's New Book Looks at What Makes Something 'Alive'Dr. Scott Turner argues humans must explore living nature as purposeful, driven by desire
- Trees Cope with Harsh Conditions, Surprising Researchers Study in Australia reveals ability to 'wait out the heat'
- ERE Professor Focuses Sabbatical on GIS TechnologyLindi Quackenbush to add Google Earth Engine to advanced remote-sensing course
- Dr. Jack Manno, Cindy Squillace Honored with Racial Justice AwardRetired faculty member earns award from Interfaith Works
- The Ocean Is Losing Its BreathESF scientist joins team in revealing dangers and solutions
- Synthetic Protein Could Be Key in Battle against DiseaseESF scientists contribute to new publication
- Dr. James Gibbs Named SUNY Distinguished ProfessorESF professor earns highest faculty rank
- ‘Extinct’ Floreana Tortoise Species Could Return to Galapagos ESF professor contributes to restoration program
- NSF Grant Funds ESF Ecologist’s Gypsy Moth ResearchDr. Dylan Parry investigates spread of invasive species
- Martin Hogue Receives Teaching AwardCited for dedication to students, professionalism
- Dr. John Farrell Named Exemplary Researcher at ESFDirector of Thousand Islands Biological Station recognized for aquatic research
- ESF Staff, Faculty Honored by Chancellor Commitment to students, professionalism recognized
- ESF Professor Co-authors Declaration to Support Indigenous ScienceStatement endorsed by over 1500 indigenous scientists and allies
- Farther from the Forest: ‘Eye-opening’ Study Shows Rural U.S. Loses Forests Faster than CitiesStudy overturns conventional wisdom about forest loss
- ESF Professor Awarded Research GrantInnovations in green building construction to be studied
- Former ESF President Whaley Honored by NY Bar AssociationState bar group bestows Environmental Law Section award
- ESF Chemistry Professor Appointed VP for ResearchChristopher Nomura aims to increase collaboration
- Dr. Stewart Diemont Receives Teaching AwardCited for creativity, contributions to profession
- ESF Professor Works to Build Community at COP21Dr. Jack Manno runs workshops at ‘Climate Generations’
- Malmsheimer Shares Sustainability Expertise with European PolicymakersFaculty member meets with leaders in Brussels, London
- Oneida Lake Subject of New BookProfessor Donald Stewart co-edits book on lake’s history, ecology
- Professor’s Book Ranks as ‘Outstanding Academic Title’Jack Manno, co-editors address the end of fossil fuels
- Professional Society Honors ESF Landscape ArchitectRichard Hawks named Distinguished Senior Practitioner, Academic Practice
- Dr. Georgios Mountrakis Honored as Exemplary ResearcherResearcher presents Adaptive Peaks Seminar
- Endreny Receives Fulbright Award as Distinguished Chair in ItalyERE chair to serve semester at Parthenope University in Naples
- ESF Faculty, Staff Honored by SUNY ChancellorCommitment to students, professionalism recognized
- ESF Forest Manager Honored by SAFBruce Breitmeyer named Fellow
- Dr. Robert MalmsheimerESF College Foundation Award for Exceptional Achievement in Teaching
- Dr. Kimberly SchulzExemplary Researcher
- Dr. Christopher NomuraExemplary Researcher
- Dr. Lindi QuackenbushESF College Foundation Award for Exceptional Achievement in Teaching winner
- Ken TissESF College Foundation Award for Exceptional Achievement in Teaching winner
- Greg BoyerExemplary Researcher, Chemistry
- George CurryKennedy Distinguished Faculty Chair in Landscape Architecture
- Dr. Robin KimmererDirector, ESF Center for Native Peoples
- Dr. James GibbsDistinguished teacher, honored researcher
- Dr. David KieberExemplary Researcher, Environmental Chemistry