TUBERCULOSIS (TB) treatments could be developed following results of a study that has identified a potential new drug target for the condition. A team from the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, has provided new insights into the structural features of an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the development of TB; this should assist the creation of new treatments that could help to eradicate the condition in the future.
Targeting Cell Wall Pathways
There has been a substantial rise in the number of TB cases resistant to currently available therapies in recent years, meaning it is vital that new treatments are developed. Finding ways to disrupt essential pathways in the assembly of the cell wall of the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), which causes TB, was the approach looked at in this new study. This is because Mtb has a distinctive cell wall comprised of unusual sugars and lipids that protect the bacterium from the host environment.
Using X-ray facilities, the team were able to obtain detailed insights into the role and structure of a Mtb enzyme called NagA. This enabled them to find out how this enzyme generates important precursors that play a vital role in the biosynthesis and metabolism of the Mtb cell wall. Crucially, following numerous biochemical and biophysical checks that revealed a molecular image of the NagA, the researchers were able to uncover a unique structural feature of this enzyme. They believe this new information could assist the creation of new molecules that inhibit this pathway, leading to the destruction of TB.
“Promising Drug Target”
Dr Elizabeth Fullam, University of Warwick, who led the team, commented: “In our studies, we have investigated the role of an enzyme in Mtb called NagA. This enzyme is a promising drug target as it is at a crucial metabolic chokepoint in Mtb. This means that a molecule that stops the enzyme from working would be an effective strategy for a drug and therefore it is critical to understand its function.”
She continued: “Our group has identified a weak point within this protein that we can target and will now enable us to design specific molecules to block its function.”
These new findings could therefore prove to be of vital importance; TB is known to cause more deaths than any other infectious disease, including HIV and malaria.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source and further information about the study, click here.