Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru have developed two new, potent molecules that can severely impact the survival of mycobacteria.
This is including Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB.
Unlike most antibiotics that target the bacterial metabolism by aiming at the cellular components, the novel molecules inhibit the stress response pathway of mycobacteria.
The stress response pathway is crucial for bacteria to survive during hostile conditions such as lack of nutrients and the presence of antibiotics, to name a few.
So any inhibition of this pathway will lead to its death.
The master regulator of stress pathway in the case of mycobacteria is (p)ppGpp (Guanosine pentaphospahte or Guanosine tetraphosphate).
Though a molecule that inhibits the (p)ppGpp formation has already been synthesised, the efficacy is not much.
Very high concentration of Relacin molecule is needed to inhibit the pathway and, therefore, the efficacy is low.
So scientists synthesised two new molecules - acetylated compound (AC compound) and acetylated benzoylated compound (AB compound) - by bringing about a modification in the base of the Relacin molecule.
The two compounds affected the rate of synthesis of (p)ppGpp and also reduced the cell survival.” Additionally, the two molecules were not toxic to human cells and were able to penetrate the human lung epithelial cells.
“The Alarmone molecule “(p)ppgpp”, a modified nucleotide, is ubiquitous in bacteria and absent in humans.
Inhibiting (p)ppgpp synthesis would specifically target the survival of bacteria without having any effects on humans.
Earlier studies have shown that when the rel gene is deleted, the long-term survival ability under stress was lost.
Under hostile conditions, bacteria tend to form biofilms, which protect the bacteria from stress and induce tolerance to antibiotics.
Recent studies have shown that tuberculosis bacteria that cannot form a biofilm cannot survive inside the host. Evidences have shown that at the time of infection, the M. tuberculosis display a biofilm-like phenotype and this helps the bacteria to survive inside the host.
Both M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis that do have the Rel gene cannot form a biofilm.
Studies carried out by the researchers showed that both the molecules were able to inhibit biofilm formation by M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis and also disrupt the already formed biofilm.