Scientists at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have traced the differences and similarities between polymerase enzyme in bacteria RNA and that in human RNA, a significant development that may lead to improved antibiotics and less antibiotic resistance.
The new findings have been reported in two complementary papers authored by Dr. Dmitry Vassylyev, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.
"RNA polymerase is the key enzyme regulating the transfer of genetic information from DNA to RNA," Dr. Vassylyev has been quoted as saying in the online edition of Nature magazine.
"All living organisms use this enzyme to transmit the instructions stored in genes (DNA) to messenger RNA (mRNA), which in turn communicates those instructions to the cells," added the study author.
The researchers are of the opinion that the information about the similarities and differences between human RNA polymerase and bacteria RNA polymerase will help them get a more detailed picture of the structure of the essential enzyme.
"Knowing how RNA polymerase differs in human and bacterial cells means antibiotics can be designed with a greater probability that they will interact with and kill bacteria, while leaving healthy human cells alone," Vassylyev said.
The researchers also say that their findings not only present a pathway for new antibiotics, but also may help them improve the existing drugs. Some antibiotics are very good at killing bacteria, for instance, they say, but have a difficult time penetrating the cell membrane and rendering them fairly ineffective.
Vassylyev says that the detailed view of RNA polymerase provides a foundation for producing drugs that will efficiently enter cells, bind to the RNA polymerase, and destroy bacteria without inhibiting the growth of human cells.
Irina Artsimovitch of Ohio State University and Robert Laudick of the University of Wisconsin collaborated with Vassylyev for carrying out the study, funded by the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences.