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Studying the surfaces of bacteria using neutron scattering: finding new openings for antibiotics

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jeremy LakeyORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s).The use of neutrons as a scattering probe to investigate biological membranes has steadily grown in the past three decades, shedding light on the structure and behaviour of this ubiquitous and fundamental biological barrier. Meanwhile, the rise of antibiotic resistance has catalysed a renewed interest in understanding the mechanisms underlying the dynamics of antibiotics interaction with the bacterial cell envelope. It is widely recognised that the key reason behind the remarkable success of Gram-negative pathogens in developing antibiotic resistance lies in the effectiveness of their outer membrane (OM) in defending the cell from antibacterial compounds. Critical to its function, the highly asymmetric lipid distribution between the inner and outer bilayer leaflets of the OM, adds an extra level of complexity to the study of this crucial defence barrier. Here we review the opportunities offered by neutron scattering techniques, in particular reflectometry, to provide structural information on the interactions of antimicrobials with in vitro models of the OM. The differential sensitivity of neutrons towards hydrogen and deuterium makes them a unique probe to study the structure and behaviour of asymmetric membranes. Molecular-level understanding of the interactions between antimicrobials and the Gram-negative OM provides valuable insights that can aid drug development and broaden our knowledge of this critically important biological barrier.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Paracini N, Clifton LA, Lakey JH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biochemical Society transactions

Year: 2020

Volume: 48

Issue: 5

Pages: 2139-2149

Online publication date: 02/10/2020

Acceptance date: 01/09/2020

Date deposited: 12/01/2021

ISSN (print): 0300-5127

ISSN (electronic): 1470-8752

Publisher: Portland Press


DOI: 10.1042/BST20200320

PubMed id: 33005925


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