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March 20, 2013

Superbugs may have a soft spot

e. coli bacterium
A cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times

The overuse of antibiotics has created strains of bacteria resistant to medication, making the diseases they cause difficult to treat or even deadly. But now a research team at the University has identified a weakness in at least one superbug that scientists may be able to medically exploit.

Biologists Gloria Culver at Rochester and Keith Connolly, now at Harvard University, thought one key to stopping the bacteria may lie with proteins, so they studied the mechanism behind the development of bacterial ribosomes—the cell’s protein-manufacturing machine. “We targeted the ribosomes in our research because cells and organisms can’t live if they don’t make proteins, and they can’t make proteins if their ribosomes aren’t functioning properly,” says Culver, professor and chair of the Department of Biology.

Culver and Connolly specifically worked with cultures of E. coli, a bacteria commonly found in the intestines. While E. coli is usually harmless, some strains are resistant to antibiotics and can cause serious food poisoning.

Culver and Connolly discovered that two proteins already present in E. coli cells—RbfA and KsgA—need to be in balance with each other in order for ribosomes to function. If those proteins are present in the wrong concentrations, the ribosomes will not mature properly and will be unable to produce proteins, leading to the death of the cells. The findings were published in the journal Molecular Microbiology.

Culver says the next goal in the research is to determine an effective way to disrupt the balance of the key proteins. Crucially, RbfA does not exist in humans. “That may make it possible to kill E. coli without having a harmful effect on people,” Culver says.


Steven Chu to address commencement

At the ceremony, Chu will receive the George Eastman Medal, which recognizes outstanding achievement and dedicated service.

Diversity conference highlights ‘Our Differences, Our Strength’

This year’s theme will explore how diversity can be a source of strength in the academic community.

Rob Clark to lead Hajim School, research efforts

Clark was selected as senior vice president for research—a position he has most recently filled in an interim role—following a national search.

In Brief

A roundup of news.

Jonathan Friedberg named Wilmot Cancer Center director

He has served as acting director of Wilmot since July 2012.

Report offers recommendations for expediting internal reporting

The review resulted in a list of key principles on reporting timely information.

University to offer online courses through Coursera

The University and 28 other universities have joined 33 schools already associated with Coursera. Rochester has

made a commitment to provide three or more courses through Coursera.

In Brief

A roundup of news.

Making headlines

In Memoriam

Trustee Robert Hurlbut remembered as community leader; Robert Hoekelman leaves a legacy of enhanced children’s care.

Understanding the ‘unseen’ part of your paycheck

As an added incentive, the first 250 employees who view their reports will be rewarded with two movie tickets.

Festival celebrates women in music

The event has grown from a modest noontime concert series at the school to encompassing daytime and evening performances across the region.

Symposia examine ‘ Reformations in Western Thought’

The 2013 Ferrari Humanities Symposia center on “Reformations in Western Thought.”

United Way: Starting with a song

Holy Childhood school students Josiah Sweet of Livonia, Andrew Rondeau of Henrietta, and Julianne Warren of Spencerport perform a rap about the United Way.

Notables

A public art ‘intervention’

An 18-foot-long rhinestone-covered replica of a U.S. Predator drone is the center of new multimedia art exhibit.