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Proteins “key to new antibiotics”


Bacteria-killing proteins that hold the key to powerful new types of antibiotics are the targets of researchers at York and Leeds universities.

They have been awarded £3.3 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to study how proteins known as colicins destroy bacterial cells.

The team is led by York`s Professor Colin Kleanthous, and will build on earlier findings that colicins might mimic key parts of a cell’s own protein machinery to evade its defences.

He said: “Colicins are the weapon used in the biological warfare that takes place between competing bacteria. Understanding how this group of proteins work could help scientists develop new drug delivery methods to target the bacteria that cause diseases in people.”

And Leeds Professor Sheena Radford added: “It’s as though the colicins are carrying the equivalent of hand grenades, which they can deploy without harming themselves.”

The five-year programme aims specifically to find out how colicins penetrate gram-negative bacteria, which are protected by two membrane barriers.

Copyright Press Association 2009


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