Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 12:20 in Biology & Nature

For more than a decade, scientists have worked to understand the connection between colibactin, a compound produced by certain strains of E. coli, and colorectal cancer, but have been hampered by their inability to isolate the compound. So Emily Balskus decided to focus instead on the mess it leaves behind. Balskus, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and her colleagues are the authors of a new study that seeks to understand how colibactin causes cancer by precisely identifying how the chemical reacts with DNA to create DNA adducts. The study is described in a Feb. 15 paper published in Science. “It’s been known since 2006 that there’s a set of genes in certain gut-commensal bacteria — mostly in strains of E. coli — that gives them the ability to make molecules that can lead to DNA damage,” Balskus said. “Over the years, there have been a number of studies that have shown...

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