Scientists have identified a novel approach for incorporating sulfur into complicated natural compounds.


Scientists have identified a novel approach for incorporating sulfur into complicated natural compounds.

For synthetic chemists and biologists interested in probing and modifying sulfur-based biochemistry, Advance gives new tools.

Because of their significance in nature and how they interact with proteins to change their structure and function, affecting health, aging, and disease processes, a category of highly reactive chemicals known as persulfides has piqued biochemists’ interest.

However, due to the chemical’s volatility, studying persulfides and their consequences has proven difficult. Before they can be thoroughly explored, persulfides seek to react with neighboring molecules as soon as they are formed.

A recent study from Scripps Research’s Florida campus, published in Nature Communications on September 28, 2021, uncovers a previously unknown mechanism by which nature solves this challenge and makes use of persulfides: the production of helpful enzymes that aid in sulfur insertion. Researchers now have a new way for producing potentially essential sulfur-based compounds in the lab, as well as an answer to one of nature’s most fascinating biological mysteries: In the first place, how does sulfur become integrated into complex molecules? According to Ben Shen, professor and chair of the Scripps Research Department of Chemistry in, Florida, and senior author of the work, sulfur is the fifth most frequent element in life, but nature uses a relatively restricted number of ways to install it into tiny molecules.

Given those limited processes, Shen has long questioned how sulfur atoms may become absorbed into the structure of fascinating chemicals he investigated, such as guangnanmycin and leinamycin.

Leinamycin is a natural compound with antibacterial and anticancer effects that was first found in 1989. Shen and his team identified dozens of members of what is truly a large family of leinamycin variations in nature in 2017 with the help of their increasing collection of microbial strains. Shen discovered that the anticancer action of leinamycin is dependent on its two sulfurs.

Scripps Research Florida’s recent acquisition of one of the world’s largest microbial strain collections provided Shen’s team with a new technique to study the question: a targeted search for novel enzymes, nature’s catalysts. Growing bigger amounts of the strains of interest, then mining (sequencing and analyzing) their genetic material for telltale signals of enzymes, is how this approach works.

Shen explains, “We have now found a new process by which nature simultaneously installs two sulfur atoms into a tiny molecule, addressing the long-standing challenge of their instability.” “This discovery demonstrates how valuable our natural product strain collection is and how it allows us to… Summary of the latest news from Brinkwire.


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