The structure of the newly discovered small molecule Streptosactin. Credit: Leah Bushin. A new bacterial molecule with the unsavory tendency to track down and kill others of its own kind has been discovered in the human microbiome by researchers at Princeton’s Department of Chemistry. Named Streptosactin, it is the first small molecule found to exhibit fratricidal activity.
The discovery by the Seyedsayamdost lab is detailed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society ( JACS ).
The research describes a veritable needle-in-a-haystack hunt in which streptosactin was located “at the edge of detection.” Its production is so minimal and so difficult to track that researchers achieved the results only through a complex interplay of factors.
They used a clever bioinformatic search strategy developed a few years ago by Leah Bushin, a sixth-year graduate student in the Seyedsayamdost lab. This “genome-first” approach allowed them to screen molecules for two key characteristics: community behavior (thus uncovering the fratricide), and structural or topological novelty.
The researchers then used advanced mass spectrometry tactics to separate out the signal from noise, manipulating and concentrating the culture extracts over a thousand-fold before locating the sought-after compound after months of searching.
The Cain-and-Abel behavior has been found in another bacterium where […]
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