GlycoNet scientist helps discover novel way to synthesize antibiotics

By Chardelle Prevatt – April 28, 2017

Antibiotics are drugs that either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics are used to treat or prevent bacterial infections. In the midst of growing concerns over antibiotic resistance, a new study has revealed the first steps in the biosynthesis of kanosamine—a known antibiotic and antifungal agent, which also serves as a building block for other widely used antibiotics.

In a paper published in the American Chemical Society’s journal—Biochemistry earlier this month, GlycoNet scientist Dr. David Palmer and PhD candidate Natasha Vetter, at the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Chemistry, have revealed a relatively fast, simple, and effective way that certain bacteria use to produce kanosamine from glucose, using a short series of enzymatic reactions.

“This work attempts to understand how the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate 3-dehydrogenase (NtdC) helps to generate kanosamine in bacteria,” said Natasha Vetter, lead author of the paper. “NtdC is a relatively novel enzyme in that it makes a 3-keto sugar which is fairly uncommon in the biological world. There’s also an interesting coupling between this enzyme and another enzyme, 3-oxo-glucose-6-phosphate:glutamate aminotransferase, that allows for that transformation to happen.”

Despite kanosamine’s ability to suppress bacterial infections, the extent of its efficacy remains unclear.

Dr. Palmer added, “There is an emerging, interdisciplinary area of research called ‘synthetic biology’ where scientists construct pathways to make desired biological products. Data from our latest research can potentially be valuable to this new field.”

This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

To view the full research paper, click here.

NSERC aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports university students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence.

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