Vanderbilt biochemists have discovered that the process bacteria undergo when they become drug resistant can act as a powerful tool for drug discovery.
Their findings -- reported this week in the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- should give a major boost to natural products drug discovery -- the process of finding new drugs from compounds isolated from living organisms -- by substantially increasing the number of novel compounds that scientists can extract from individual microorganisms.
Bacteria have traditionally been the source of important drugs such as antibiotics and anticancer agents. Researchers looking for new bacterially synthesized drugs have long known that bacterial genomes contain a large number of "silent genes" that contain the instructions for making drug-like compounds. But, until now, scientists have found it is very difficult to find ways to turn on the production of these compounds, known as secondary metabolites.