Scientist discovers critical TB amino acid

A U.S. biochemist recently discovered an amino acid that plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, possibly opening the way for better treatment of the illness in the future.

Marcy Hernick, a biochemistry professor at Virginia Tech and affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute, discovered that the amino acid tyrocine plays a key role in the functioning of an enzyme used by mycobacteria, the bacteria that causes TB. Tyrosine aids in the regulation of the binding and release of small molecules during the pathogenesis of mycobacteria, according to HealthCanal.com.

"When studying pathogenesis, we wanted to map out the active site of the enzyme to understand which amino acid chains were necessary for catalysis to occur," Hernick said, HealthCanal.com reports. "We found a tyrosine residue on the structure that we wouldn't have thought to be important. But, after further analysis, we think tyrosine moves to carry out different steps in the catalytic cycle."

Hernick, whose findings were recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, said that the new information could be critical in the development of drug-based inhibitors because scientists could potentially develop medication that interacts with tyrosine in order to alter catalysis.