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Unique Amino Acids May Play Role in New Anti-Fungal Drugs

NSF Award:

Theonellamides: vacuole for discovery  (Louisiana State University & Agricultural and Mechanical College)

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Carol Taylor and her team of graduate and undergraduate students at Louisiana State University have synthesized some unusual amino acids that are key components of a family of compounds known as theonellamides. This cross-linking amino acid has been identified in tooth dentin, eye cataracts and connective tissue. The amounts of amino acid appear to correlate with age and some disease states.

This research has "test-driven" relevant methods to find the best way to make these challenging amino acids while training a diverse group of young scientists. Taylor's synthetic compounds will enable studies on the mechanism of action and potential development of a new class of anti-fungal drugs.

In nature, theonellamides are produced by bacteria living in marine sponges. They consist of 12 amino acids joined with a bridging histidinoalanine (HAL) residue. The theonellamides present a challenge to the art and science of assembling complex molecules. The biggest hurdle in synthesizing the theonellamides lies in joining these amino acids to form the compound's two structural rings. Taylor's modular approach makes it possible to produce analogs-compounds with structures similar to the original-and to learn what features are necessary for anti-fungal activity.

Images (1 of )

  • sea sponge
  • chemical structure theonellamides
Bacteria in sea sponges produce theonellamides.
Parent Gery, wikimedia commons
This structure could lead to new anti-fungal drugs.
Carol M. Taylor

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