Better Cancer Treatments Ahead? Fewer Chemotherapy Side Effects


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Bacterial Transporters in Nucleoside Research

Vibrio cholerae bacteria were studied as a model system. Image courtesy of Dartmouth College

Dr. Lee went on to explain the similarities between bacterial transporters and human nucleoside transporters. He said, “We chose to study the nucleoside transporter from the bacterium Vibrio cholerae as a model system to study human nucleoside transporters. During the course of our research, we found that the bacterial transporter works in a very similar fashion as the human transporters. The similarities were much more striking than we originally expected.

For example, the amino acid composition of the nucleoside (and drug) binding site is almost identical (>90%) between Vibrio cholerae and human CNTs although the overall sequence identity is only ~40%. Also, both transporters require the same kind of ion (sodium) dependence for their function. These similarities strongly suggest that high evolutionary pressure preserved the most important part of the transporters across different species and information that we gain from the bacterial transporter can be applied to human CNTs.”

Better HIV Drugs, Reduced Chemotherapy Side Effects: Research Implications

According to Dr. Lee, this discovery may be applicable to other drugs as well as chemotherapy and cancer treatments. He says, “We already know that this class of transporter is also involved in getting antiviral drugs (such as the HIV drug AZT or the hepatitis C drug ribavirin) into cells. It is also possible that drugs that were developed for other purposes could utilize this transporter that we have just not yet identified. We are collaborating with a computational biology group at UCSF to identify potential drugs that use this transporter for cell entry.” In this research, early strides have been made toward improvements that may impact people suffering from a wide variety of diseases.


Johnson, Z., Cheong, C., Lee, S.Y. Crystal structure of a concentrative nucleoside transporter from Vibrio cholerae at 2.4 Å. (2012). Nature Online. Accessed March 12, 2012.

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