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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Role of O-Antigen in tackling E. coli in paper published by Global-NAMRIP member

Published: 12 August 2019
Computer simulation of bacteria
Computer simulation of bacteria

Professor Syma Khalid, a member of Global-NAMRIP, has had her research on the role of O-Antigen in response to stress of the E.coli outer membrane published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.

Many Gram-negative bacteria cause disease to humans, animals and plants. In order to develop new antibiotics to combat these harmful pathogens, it is important to understand the mechanism that protect them.

Mechanical strength is imparted in a large part by the cell envelopes that protect bacterial cells. The envelopes are complex architectures with multiple compartments, containing many different molecular species. So identifying which components are key for mechanical strength is far from trivial.

Professor Khalid used molecular simulations to show that the O-antigen components of the outer membrane play a key role in maintaining the mechanical strength of the cell. When these molecules are absent, the cells only contain shorter lipopolysaccharide molecules and the cell envelopes are more easily ruptured.

The simulations carried out by Professor Khalid and her team show that the strong cohesive forces between the O-antigen molecules enable the cell to withstand surface tensions that would lead to cell rupture if O-antigen was absent.

This research builds on the Pump Priming Project “First glimpses of antibiotics permeating through the bacterial cell envelope” awarded to Professor Khalid by NAMRIP as part of the EPSRC ‘Bridging the Gap’ award.

The reference for this paper is Jefferies, D., Shearer, J. and Khalid, S. (2019) "Role of O-Antigen in Response to Mechanical Stress of the E. coli Outer Membrane: Insights from Coarse-Grained MD Simulations" J. Phys. Chem. B 2019, 123, 17, 3567-3575

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