Tracking the Chemical Footprints of Bacteria

9 March, 2017

We all know that green leafy vegetables, seafood, meat, dairy, cereals and even mushrooms, almonds and vegemite are all healthy for us. One essential ingredient in them is vitamin B2 (riboflavin) that enriches our immune system. But did you know that bacteria in our bodies also make this vitamin?

Scientists at the Universities of Queensland, Melbourne and Monash recently learned that when bacteria produce this vitamin, they leave behind a trail of chemical footprints that are invisible under microscopes and vanish in minutes. Two chemists at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Dr Jeff Mak and Dr Ligong Liu, have now made these chemicals in a testube.

Dr Mak said “Certain white blood cells in our immune system act like sniffer dogs in finding these footprints and chasing after bacteria to destroy them”. Dr Liu said “Our immune cells can find just a few molecules in a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) of these chemical footprints”. “By learning how to make these trace chemicals from bacteria, scientists around the world now have new tools to find even traces of infection in our body and new clues to fight disease”, added team leader Professor David Fairlie.

The work published this week in Nature Communications was supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Drugs and Drug-Like Molecules Activate or Inhibit T cells

7 February, 2017

PhD student Weijun Xu from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience used computer modelling to predict chemical structures, drugs and drug-like molecules that activate or inhibit T cells called MAIT cells. Such small compounds included salicylates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac, and drug metabolites. Researchers from University of Queensland, Monash University and University of Melbourne are a step closer to understanding immune sensitivities to well-known, and commonly prescribed, medications (Nature Immunology 2017, doi: 10.1038/ni.3679 [Epub ahead of print]).

Collaboration with US Pharma

12 January, 2017

IMB Researchers in collaboration with Noliva Therapeutics (Newton, Massachusetts) report chemical silencing of a protein-protein interaction using a rationally designing ligand that binds selectively and irreversibly to the cancer target, the protein Bcl2A1. “Electrophilic Helical Peptides That Bond Covalently, Irreversibly, and Selectively in a Protein–Protein Interaction Site.” Aline Dantas de Araujo, Junxian Lim, Andrew C. Good, Renato T. Skerlj and David P. Fairlie. ACS Med Chem Lett 2017, 8, 22-26 [Featured Letter]