Study May Lead to New Antifungal Drugs

TOKYO, June 14 (UPI) — A Japanese study has identified the mechanism underlying the antifungal activity of theonellamide — a bioactive compound found in a species of marine sponge.

The investigative team, led by the Riken Advanced Science Institute, said its findings provide new insights toward the development of antifungal drugs, as well as drug analysis in areas such as cancer research.

The research team investigated the antifungal activity of theonellamides — bicyclic peptides found in the marine sponge Theonella. Combining chemical-genetic profiling and biochemical and cellular analysis, they found theonellamides bind to a class of lipid molecules in the cell membrane to induce overproduction of a component of the cell wall.

That, they said, showed antifungal activity in theonellamides is different from other antifungals, which cause damage by impairing wall synthesis. Instead, theonellamides damage fungal cells by abnormally promoting synthesis, targeting not proteins as previously thought but a class of lipids and therefore represent a new class of sterol-binding molecules.

The study is detailed in the journal in Nature Chemical Biology.

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