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An international team of microbiologists, including Michaela Wenzel and Leendert Hamoen, discovered that the plant chemical rhodomyrtone offers potential for a new antibiotic. Rhodomyrtone is used in Thai herbal medicine and is known to treat infections. The recent study reveals a unique mechanism that disrupts the cell membrane of bacteria. The results were published in Plos Pathogens.

Invaginations of cell membrane due to rhodomyrtone

Michaela Wenzel and Leendert Hamoen from the UvA’s Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences study the working mechanisms of chemicals in search of new antibiotic compounds. The rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria is becoming an urgent and world-wide health problem. The research and development of novel antimicrobial compounds is therefore important.

Mode of action

In this recent study, carried out in collaboration with the group of Prof. Supayang Voravuthikunchai of the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand and the group of Prof. Wilbert Bitter of the VU, Wenzel and Hamoen discovered the mode of action of rhodomyrtone. The chemical increases the fluidity of the cell membrane, forming bubbles that can trap essential proteins, killing the cells. In addition, the researchers described zebra fish as a new animal infection model for this compound. This study provides an explanation for the low resistance of bacteria against rhodomyrtone and presents novel tools to further develop this herbal compound into a possible new clinical antibiotic.

Publication details

The novel antibiotic rhodomyrtone traps membrane proteins in vesicles with increased fluidity. Dennapa Saeloh, Varomyalin Tipmanee, Kin Ki Jim, Marien P. Dekker, Wilbert Bitter, Supayang P. Voravuthikunchai, Michaela Wenzel , Leendert W. Hamoen. Published: February 16, 2018