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X-rays reveal how soil bacteria carry out surprising chemistry

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Discovery paves the way for new synthesis of antibiotics. Researchers working at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have used powerful X-rays to help decipher how certain natural antibiotics defy a longstanding set of chemical rules ā€“ a mechanism that has baffled organic chemists for decades.

Their result, reported today in Nature, details how five carbon atoms and one oxygen atom in the structure of lasalocid, a natural antibiotic produced by bacteria in soil, can link into a six-membered ring through an energetically unfavorable chemical reaction. Unlocking this chemical pathway could enable scientists to synthesize many important chemicals currently found only in nature.

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