Possible origins of antibiotic resistance: A biochemistry perspective

2016 Hamilton Lecture presented by Dr Valerie Soo

6.00pm Wednesday 17 August

Lecture Theatre 2, EIT, 501 Gloucester St, Taradale

Enzymes are the protein molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in all types of cells. Most enzymes are designed for specific functions, for example certain enzymes will break down antibiotics resulting in antibiotic resistance. This specialisation suggests a lack of flexibility but we know that enzymes do develop novel functions, so how does this happen? If enzymes are designed for one role, how do they develop novel functions?

Whilst doing her PhD, Valerie Soo discovered that many enzymes in the laboratory bacterium, Escherichia coli, have weak secondary functions. When placed in environments where toxins
or antibiotics were present, these secondary functions enabled the bacteria to grow in almost one third of these environments. The unexpected development of antibiotic resistance shows the possible role of weak secondary functions and how they help to evolve new functions in proteins.

Valerie SooDr Valerie Soo hails from Malaysia, and completed her undergraduate degree at Monash University Malaysia. Fascinated by molecular evolution, she undertook her PhD at Massey University and graduated in 2013. Valerie’s doctoral research on ‘promiscuous proteins’ changed the way that many of us think about enzyme evolution and her paper has been highly cited since its publication in 2011. Valerie is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Pennsylvania State University, USA but will move to London, UK in mid-2016.

rsnz_logo_1This lecture is kindly sponsored by the Royal Society of New Zealand