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Common ancestry of bacterium and plants could be key to an effective new treatment for chlamydia

separately, it would be impossible for the sequences to match so closely."

The ability to easily compare plants and bacteria is the result of genome sequencing, which has decoded the complete genetic blueprint for entire species. "This would not have been possible 10 years ago," said Leustek. "But now we have access to more that 500 different genomes in a data base. After having identified a gene in plants, I can quickly identify the homologous gene from any bacteria in the database. As a plant biologist I wouldn't have ever imagined that I would be working with Chlamydia. Yet, with the help of genomics I found myself working with a collaborator and publishing a paper in that area."

Their experiments revealed that in addition to sharing genome sequences, Chlamydia and plants share similar functions as well. Furthermore, they found that the pathway used by plants to produce lysine is probably used by Chlamydia to synthesize a chemical found in bacterial cell walls. It is the synthesis of cell walls that is inhibited by penicillin. This discovery points to the likelihood that, if researchers could find an inhibitor for L,L-diaminopimelate aminotransferase they would have a new antibiotic that would target Chlamydia.

Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacteria that is responsible for a common STD. If untreated, Chlamydia infections can damage a woman's reproductive organs and lead to infertility. An estimated 2.8 million men and women in the U.S. are infected with chlamydia each year. Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. However, bacteria often develop resistance to antibiotics, meaning that new ones must be continually discovered. Moreover, an inhibitor to L,L-diaminopimelate aminotransferase would be very specific for Chlamydia since this enzyme has not been found in any bacteria that live with humans.

So the hunt for a new antibiotic is on. Leustek is going to start screening for chemicals that block the enzym
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Contact: Michele Hujber
hujber@aesop.rutgers.edu
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
7-Nov-2006


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