The ability of pathogenic bacteria to generate a sodium gradient is essential to survive in the host internal environment and to establish a successful infection. The gradient of sodium is used to support a large variety of homeostatic and energetic processes, including pH regulation, ATP synthesis, cell motility, uptake of nutrients, toxin extrusion, as well as the efflux of drugs.
The studies carried out by the Juárez group demonstrate that this type of metabolism is critical in the physiology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Chlamydia trachomatis, which produce the most common hospital-acquired and sexually-transmitted infections in the world, respectively. The Juárez group also has characterized the function, structure, and assembly of the Na+-pumping NADH dehydrogenase (Na+-NQR), which is both the entry site of electrons into the respiratory chain and the main ion pump in many pathogens. These studies have allowed the group to identify inhibitory molecules that can be used to develop an entirely new family of antibiotics against these and other bacteria.