Bacteria can use natural chemicals to create complex molecules, including antibiotics, with special enzymes.
"Until now, only the intricate machinery inside cells could take a mix of enzyme ingredients, blend them together and deliver a natural product with an elaborate chemical structure such as penicillin. Researchers at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the University of Arizona have for the first time demonstrated the ability to mimic this process outside of a cell.
"A team led by Qian Cheng and Bradley Moore of Scripps was able to synthesize an antibiotic natural product created by a Hawaiian sea sediment bacterium. They did so by combining a cocktail of enzymes, the protein catalysts inside cells, in a relatively simple mixing process inside a laboratory flask…The antibiotic synthesized in Moore's laboratory, called enterocin, was assembled in approximately two hours. Such a compound would normally take months if not a year to prepare chemically." (Scripps News Service 2007)
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