Drug-resistant bacteria are one of the biggest concerns of the 21st century because they do not reveal their weakness easily. Bacteria continuously pump protons in and out of their cells to maintain a very small difference between the pH inside them and the outside environment. This difference is the source of ATP production in bacteria, which in turn supplies the energy required for many biological processes of bacteria. Therefore, the ability to disrupt this imbalance is considered a powerful tool in eliminating bacteria.
This discovery, which is one of the basic steps of bacterial metabolism, can lead to the production of a completely new group of antibiotics. After careful studies, the researchers discovered how to manipulate this pH balance through the manipulation of proton pumps. Proton pumps are enzymes that are only 5 nm wide. These enzymes are placed on the surface or membrane of bacteria. They found that when the environment inside the bacteria becomes dangerously acidic, these pumps are more likely to leak. In other words, when this pH difference between the inside and outside of the bacteria becomes too large, these pumps leak, which is not easy to measure and detect. To observe this leakage, the researchers surgically detached these pumps from the bacterial membrane and placed it on a microscope slide coated with a 30 nm layer of gold. In fact, by controlling the pumps, they are able to turn them on or off, for which very small electrodes are made. In this way, while maintaining the transparency of the slide, it becomes a conductor of electricity.