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Mol Microbiol. 1995 May;16(3):385-95.

Beta-lactamases and bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Enzymologie and Centre d'Ingénierie des Protéines, Institut de Chimie, Université de Liège, Sart Tilman, Belgium.


The efficiency of beta-lactam antibiotics, which are among our most useful chemotherapeutic weapons, is continuously challenged by the emergence of resistant bacterial strains. This is most often due to the production of beta-lactamases by the resistant cells. These enzymes inactivate the antibiotics by hydrolysing the beta-lactam amide bond. The elucidation of the structures of some beta-lactamases by X-ray crystallography has provided precious insights into their catalytic mechanisms and revealed unsuspected similarities with the DD-transpeptidases, the bacterial enzymes which constitute the lethal targets of beta-lactams. Despite numerous kinetic, structural and site-directed mutagenesis studies, we have not completely succeeded in explaining the diversity of the specificity profiles of beta-lactamases and their surprising catalytic power. The solutions to these problems represent the cornerstones on which better antibiotics can be designed, hopefully on a rational basis.

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