Scientists develop greener, more efficient method for producing next-generation antibiotics

An international team of researchers has developed a method for altering one class of antibiotics, using microscopic organisms that produce these compounds naturally.

The findings, published July 25 in Nature Chemistry, could lead to more efficient production of antibiotics that are effective against drug-resistant bacteria.

The team started with a microorganism that is genetically programmed to produce the antibiotic erythromycin.

Scientists from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Germany’s Goethe University wondered if the system could be genetically altered to assemble the antibiotic with one additional fluorine atom, which can often improve pharmaceutical properties.

“We had been analyzing fatty acid synthesis for several years when we identified a part of a mouse protein that we believed could be used for directed biosynthesis of these modified antibiotics, if added to a biological system that can already make the native compound,” said Martin Grininger, professor for biomolecular chemistry at Goethe University.

Working with the lab of David Sherman at the University of Michigan, which specializes in this biological assembly system, the team used protein engineering to replace one part of the system’s native machinery with the functionally similar mouse gene.

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