Recent Research Yields Millions of Possible Compounds with Endless Possibilities

Outcome could influence disease paths in the near future

A report in last month’s Nature Chemical Biology revealed that scientists now have the ability to produce unique compounds with the capacity to interrupt specific disease-causing protein interactions.

The discovery was the result of a recent study in which rather than attempting to identify particular proteins and enzymes—as many studies attempt to accomplish—the researchers made use of a specific enzyme discovered in the ocean.

“This enzyme’s natural role is to make about 30 different cyclic proteins, and we tested whether it could make analogs of these natural products in Escherichia coli,” said Wilfred van der Donk, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator who co-led the study with University of Southampton chemical biology professor Ali Tavassoli.

E. coli has been used as a drug-producing factory for pharmaceutical products.

The genetic sequences inserted into E. coli all coded for a series of amino acids recognized by the enzyme. By randomly adding specific amino acids to this “leader sequence,” the team was able to generate a library of more than a million unique proteins.

For example, the article revealed one newly generated compound that can interfere with HIV-related proteins to human proteins—a process vital to the disease’s life cycle.


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