One possible route towards finding new antibiotics to counter pneumococci may be by developing a substance that effectively hinders the process of cell division. A research team led by Jan-Willem Veening of the Department of Molecular Genetics of the University of Groningen has recently identified a protein named StkP, which plays an important role in this process.
An intriguing question is how oval bacteria, such as the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), know when to divide in order to avoid producing round or elongated daughter cells.
The researchers used biochemical and microscopic technologies to prove that StkP migrates to the centre of the cell, where it regulates important proteins that are involved in cell division. If StkP is absent, the pneumococci lose their characteristic oval shape and become rod-shaped. These rod-shaped pneumococci are less virulent because the human immune system finds them easier to recognize. Since StkP is present in all pathogenic pneumococci and is an essential ingredient in their virulence, this protein would be an excellent candidate for the development of new antibiotics.
An article about this study has been published in PNAS.
Dr J.W. Veening, Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute and Centre for Synthetic Biology of the University of Groningen, j.w.veening rug.nl , tel. 050-363 2408
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