PerspectiveCell Biology

Lethal Traffic Jam

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Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 684-685
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178424

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The antibiotics chloramphenicol and tetracycline were discovered in the late 1940s shortly after the introduction of penicillin (1). Elucidation of the structure of the ribosome (2, 3) revealed how they bind to this target structure and inhibit protein synthesis. On page 753 in this issue, van Stelten et al. (4) demonstrate another mode of action for these antibiotics, involving the destruction of a complex that allows proteins to be translocated across (or into) the bacterial membrane (5).