Lund researchers have solved problems that can lead to new drugs

A research team from Lund University has synthetically succeeded in producing two molecules that in nature are only formed in an abandoned mine, the molecules can be useful in drug development.

Glionitrin A and B are two related molecules that have properties that allow them to be useful in drug development. These molecules are formed by a fungus in extremely polluted, acidic, wastewater from an abandoned mine in South Korea.

For almost a decade, researchers who want to use the two molecules have been working in headwinds. Now a research team from Lund University has succeeded in producing the two molecules in a synthetic way with a method that took four years to develop.

created the molecules synthetically

Because the fungus that naturally produces the molecules only creates them when provoked by a special bacterium from the drain in the abandoned South Korean mine where the fungus is found, it has proven difficult to produce glionitrin A and B by fermentation.

The Lund researchers instead solved the problem by synthetically creating the very complex molecules. The researchers describe their work in a study published in the scientific journal Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The solution is easier than they thought

“We have been working on this problem for four years. “Every time we thought we had a solution, the molecules showed unexpected sides that sent us back to the drawing board,” says Daniel Beach, chemistry researcher at Lund University, in one press release.

The solution turned out to be simpler and more efficient than the researchers thought, Daniel Strand and his colleagues managed to create the most inaccessible parts of the molecules by developing a new so-called asymmetric organocatalytic reaction.

“When we thought the problem was solved, the molecule came with one last surprise. It turned out that the real structure was the mirror image of the structure we initially thought was glionitrin A. So all the time we and other research groups had hunted for a molecule that never existed “, says Daniel Strand in the press release.

Used in drug development

The unique properties of glionitrin A and B can be important tools in the development of new drugs. Glionitrin A also exhibits antibiotic properties against resistant bacteria and glionitrin B makes cancer cells less likely to migrate. Now that the molecules can now be produced synthetically, researchers can both be helped to understand how they work and improve their properties.

“There is a great need for new classes of antibiotics, not least those that can contribute to the fight against resistant bacteria. We expect our results to inspire further development of basic synthetic chemistry but also be used in drug development, says Daniel Strand in the press release.

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