In addition, when the researchers tricked Salmonella cells into using alpha lysine for this pathway instead of beta lysine, the cells lost their ability to cause illness.
"This tells us the cell is not going to be able to easily replace the beta amino acid," Ibba said. "It is essential for virulence in Salmonella."
And that, he said, is why that amino acid might be such an effective drug target, especially as humans don't seem to make beta amino acids at all. "You have to make an antibiotic look like something natural, only different. If you have something that's already different like a beta amino acid, you've potentially got a much better drug target because it involves chemistry that's comparatively rare in the cell. It's harder for the cell to try to alter its own chemistry to develop resistance," Ibba said.
From here, the researchers are observing cell behavior later in the protein-building process to figure out how this hijacked system actually gives Salmonella its virulence.
|Contact: Michael Ibba|
Ohio State University