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New analysis of the structure and function of the naturally-occurring antimicrobial agent tunicamycin has revealed ways to produce new, safe antibiotics for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other disease-causing bacteria.

Yellow long bacteria on blue background

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Tunicamycin is an antibiotic produced by several types of bacteria, but it is unsuitable for use in humans because it is also toxic to animal cells.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Oxford’s department of Chemistry and the Structural Genomics Consortium, along with collaborators at the John Innes Institute and at the NIH in Bethesda, examined the mechanism behind Tunicamycin’s toxicity and found that it acted upon a gene called DPAGT1, which is responsible for producing an enzyme involved in glycoprotein biosynthesis. This is a gene that occasionally mutates, leading to rare genetic diseases.

Read more (University of Oxford website)

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