New DNA binding compound could pave way for novel antibiotics

June 10th, 2009 - 12:43 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 10 (ANI): A synthetic DNA binding compound, called [Fe2L3]4+, has been found to be surprisingly effective at binding to the DNA of bacteria and killing all the bacteria it touched within two minutes.Led by Professor Mike Hannon and Professor Alison Rodger from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick, were the first to discover the DNA binding properties of the compound.

However, it is now that the strength of its antibiotic powers has interested researchers working on the development of novel antibiotics.

“This research will assist the design of new compounds that can attack bacteria in a highly effective way which gets around the methods bacteria have developed to resist our current antibacterial drugs. As this antibiotic compound operates by targeting DNA, it should avoid all current resistance mechanisms of multi-resistant bacteria such as MRSA,” said Dr Adair Richards from the University of Warwick.

The compound [Fe2L3]4+ is an iron triple helicate with three organic strands wrapped around two iron centres to give a helix which looks cylindrical in shape and neatly fits within the major groove of a DNA helix.

It is about the same size as the parts of a protein that recognise and bind with particular sequences of DNA.

The high positive charge of the compound enhances its ability to bind to DNA, which is negatively charged, and when the iron-helicate binds to the major groove of DNA, it coils the DNA so that it is no longer available to bind to anything else and is not able to drive biological or chemical processes.

Initially the researchers focused on the application of this useful property for targeting the DNA of cancer cells, but they quickly realised that it might also be a very clever way of targeting drug-resistant bacteria.

And, in the new research, scientists have now found that the [Fe2L3]4+ does indeed have a powerful effect on bacteria.

It was found that when introduced to two test bacteria Bacillus subtilis and E. coli, it quickly bound to the bacteria’s DNA and killed virtually every cell within two minutes of being introduced - though the concentration required for this is high.

Professor Alison Rodger, Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at the University of Warwick, said: “We were surprised at how quickly this compound killed bacteria and these results make this compound a key lead compound for researchers working on the development of novel antibiotics to target drug resistant bacteria.”

The research has been published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. (ANI)

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