Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup: Sept. 24, 2013

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Science & Research Editor
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Researchers pinpoint tuberculosis’ Achilles’ heel

Jason Sello, associate professor of chemistry, and Corey Compton GS may have found Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ “Achilles’ heel,” according to a Sept. 18 University press release.

The researchers found that the tuberculosis bacterium requires an enzyme called ClpP to survive. Inhibiting this enzyme will kill the M. tuberculosis bacteria, a deadly infection gaining resistance to mainstream antibiotics, according to the release.

Though the enzyme ClpP is extraneous in most bacteria and is even referred to as “the garbage disposal of the bacteria cell,” it is essential to the survival of the M. tuberculosis strand of bacteria, Sello said in the release.

“If you can inhibit the function of the enzyme … then you can kill the bacterium,” he added.

Running a series of multi-step experiments on a set of 14 compounds known as B-lactones, Sello and his team eventually found the holy grail they sought. The molecule B-lactone 7 was found to inhibit the ClpP enzyme, indirectly triggering the death of the M. tuberculosis bacteria.

“Our data validate ClpP as a viable, antibacterial drug target,” Sello said in the release, adding that pharmaceutical companies could use B-lactone 7 or the ClpP inhibition strategy as potential launching pads for anti-tuberculosis drug development.

 

Flower fertilization knowledge grows

With an article title that suggests the first ever how-to-guide written by a plant, University researchers recently published new findings on the intricate process of flowering plant reproduction. “Speed dating, rejection, and finding the perfect mate: advice from flowering plants,” was published in Current Opinion in Plant Biology earlier this month.

The research demonstrates an increasingly strong understanding of flowering plant reproduction on the molecular level and describes new insight on how “cysteine-rich peptides are a major mode of cellular communication” throughout the process, according to the article.

In the paper, Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, and Kristin Beale GS describe how pollen tubes from one flower’s piston grow toward female gametes in another flower to transport a pair of sperm cells, a process known as double fertilization.

The maneuver requires “extensive cell-cell interaction” that regulates how far the pollen tube goes, when it stops and when it bursts to deliver the sperm, according to the article’s abstract. The sperm activate when they arrive at the female gamete, and then one fuses with the female sex cell. The researchers found evidence that more pollen tubes will grow toward the female gamete only if the first fertilization fails.

 

Research uncovers nongenetic type 2 diabetes risk factors

In a new study involving more than 13,500 postmenopausal women, Brown researchers linked certain nongenetic factors such as lifestyle choices to type 2 diabetes risk. The study was published online in the journal Clinical Chemistry earlier this month.

To measure the level of risk, researchers tracked the levels of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin. Low levels of this protein indicate increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a University press release.

Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine, led research on nongenetic factors that affect SHBG levels in postmenopausal women.

His team found that factors such as age, estrogen replacement therapy, physical activity and consumption of coffee were positively correlated to higher SHBG levels, and therefore lower risk for type 2 diabetes. A high body-mass index was associated with lower levels of the protein, signaling greater risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the release.

The study, which focused on SHBG-related type 2 diabetes risk in black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander postmenopausal women for the first time, revealed that ethnicity does not affect type 2 diabetes risk in a significant way.

The research may help bolster clinicians’ understanding of type 2 diabetes risk factors and make intervention strategies more effective, according to the release.

“By the time you are checking blood glucose, it’s too late,” Liu said in the release. “Our argument is that you can go to the doctors office and check this protein that can predict your future risk six to 10 years down the line,” he added.