The structure of a protein responsible for antibiotic resistance has been identified for the first time.

The process of formation of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been studied quite well, and preparations to combat harmful microorganisms still do not allow them to take over us. At the same time, their own “white spots” remained in the mechanisms of development of resistance. But recently, a group of German scientists made a rather important discovery: they managed to identify a previously unknown protein structure, which is responsible for the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. And the world’s largest free electron XFEL laser helped them in this.


First, let us explain a little about what constitutes XFEL (or European X-ray Free Electron Laser). It began to be developed in 2002, and was put into operation in 2017. The length of the entire complex is 3.4 kilometers and it is located at a depth of 6 to 38 meters underground. The construction itself begins in the DESY laboratory area in Hamburg, and ends at the outskirts of the city of Schönefeld. All this massive construction works as follows: accelerating electron beams fall into a special device with a periodic magnetic field. It allows electrons to emit particles in the range from tetrahertz to x-rays, so that structures can be studied that cannot be seen by other methods.

At the time of radiation and particles falling on a protein crystal placed in water, diffraction transfers data about the structure contained protein in it

The lysozyme enzyme was used as a control, the resulting structure of which with the help of XFEL turned out to be completely identical to that obtained by the “traditional” method. Next, the experts took a sample of the enzyme bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae. The enzyme is called CTX-M-14 and belongs to the group of beta-lactamase. As a result, a previously unknown enzyme was isolated, which, as it turned out, plays a key role in the formation of resistance in bacteria. Blocking it, Klebsiella can be made vulnerable to antibacterial drugs. Now scientists are looking for a way to deactivate a protein, as well as finding out how this technology can be used to identify the weak points of other bacteria.

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