A new medicinal target for meningococcal disease

March 7, 2016

A protein that eliminates the translational delays essential to meningococcus survival

The RIKEN Structural Biology Laboratory and a joint CSRS research group have discovered that the EF-P (translation elongation factor P) is essential to the survival of meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningococcal disease. EF-P eliminates the stalling of gene translations triggered by consecutive prolines.

Meningococcal disease outbreaks continue in Africa, the Middle East and Western countries, and the disease has a high fatality rate. Treatment involves a combination of medications that attack different mechanisms of the infection. EF-P is mostly ubiquitous in bacteria but is not essential to the survival of E. coli, salmonella, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other bacteria.

The group made the discovery that EF-P is essential to the survival of meningococcal bacteria, as a result of closely studying meningococcus-derived EF-P using a molecular genetics and biochemical approach.

Their findings should contribute to the development of new antibacterial drugs that target EF-P and its related enzymes in specific disease-causing bacteria such as meningococcus, while leaving commensal bacteria intact.


Original article
PLOS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147907
T. Yanagisawa, H. Takahashi, T. Suzuki, A. Masuda, N. Dohmae, S. Yokoyama,
"Neisseria meningitidis translation elongation factor P and its active-site arginine residue are essential for cell viability".

Naoshi Dohmae
Unit Leader
Biomolecular Characterization Unit