Research on pigments reveals Achilles’ heel for MRSA

Research co-led by bioscientists at Kent provides a molecular explanation for how the bacterium behind the super bug MRSA produces a red pigment that is crucial for its rapid growth.

By Sandy Fleming, University of Kent Press and Media Office

In a paper published in Biochemical Journal , Kent’s Dr Mark Shepherd and PhD student Charlie Hobbs, working with researchers at the University of Georgia, USA, provide new insights into the HemQ enzyme of haem synthesis, which is unique to bacteria causing infections including MRSA, tuberculosis and acne.

Since certain infectious bacteria produce haem in a different way to humans, drugs designed to target this process are less likely to be toxic to human cells. In future, targeting this pathway with new drugs will provide alternative strategies to combat bacteria that are resistant to conventional antibiotics.

Dr Shepherd is Lecturer in Microbial Biochemistry at Kent’s School of Biosciences.

The HemQ coprohaem decarboxylase generates reactive oxygen species: implications for the evolution of classical haem biosynthesis (Dr Mark Shepherd and Charlie Hobbs, PhD student, University of Kent and Harry A Dailey, University of Georgia; DOI: 10.1042/BCJ20160696) is published in Biochemical Journal.