Researchers from the University of Göttingen, the Max Planck Institute and Texas A&M have uncovered the details of the promising antivitamin. We are talking about the substance 2'-methoxythiamine (MTh), which differs from vitamin B1 by only one atom. But this alone is enough to defeat bacteria.
Antivitamin, as its name implies, is a close analogue of a vitamin, but has a completely different purpose. Specifically, MTh is produced by some bacteria as a weapon against competing microbes. There is a natural mechanism for the destruction of hostile microflora in a certain environment, which is very similar to the action of antibiotics.
Researchers have applied MTh to E. coli and studied how they interact using high-resolution protein crystallography technology. It turned out that MTh acts on glutamates in the body of bacteria, forcing them to form bonds with each other. They do not convert into catalysts and thus sabotage vital reactions for the movement of protons in bacterial proteins. This does not kill them immediately, but it strongly "spoils health" and significantly weakens.
Just one atom in the MTh structure turns an anti-vitamin into something akin to a grain of sand that got into a fine-tuned clockwork and disabled it, explains study author Kai Tittmann. And that could be the key to creating new medicines that will replace antibiotics. It is very important that MTh antivitamin is absolutely harmless to the human body - this greatly simplifies research.