Recent Submissions

  • Special Issue: "Actinobacteria and Myxobacteria-Important Resources for Novel Antibiotics".

    Wink, Joachim; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-09-24)
    [[No abstract available]
  • An ambruticin-sensing complex modulates Myxococcus xanthus development and mediates myxobacterial interspecies communication.

    Marcos-Torres, Francisco Javier; Volz, Carsten; Müller, Rolf; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Nature Pulishing Group, 2020-11-04)
    Starvation induces cell aggregation in the soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus, followed by formation of fruiting bodies packed with myxospores. Sporulation in the absence of fruiting bodies can be artificially induced by high concentrations of glycerol through unclear mechanisms. Here, we show that a compound (ambruticin VS-3) produced by a different myxobacterium, Sorangium cellulosum, affects the development of M. xanthus in a similar manner. Both glycerol (at millimolar levels) and ambruticin VS-3 (at nanomolar concentrations) inhibit M. xanthus fruiting body formation under starvation, and induce sporulation in the presence of nutrients. The response is mediated in M. xanthus by three hybrid histidine kinases (AskA, AskB, AskC) that form complexes interacting with two major developmental regulators (MrpC, FruA). In addition, AskB binds directly to the mrpC promoter in vitro. Thus, our work indicates that the AskABC-dependent regulatory pathway mediates the responses to ambruticin VS-3 and glycerol. We hypothesize that production of ambruticin VS-3 may allow S. sorangium to outcompete M. xanthus under both starvation and growth conditions in soil.
  • Non-Heme Monooxygenase ThoJ Catalyzes Thioholgamide β-Hydroxylation.

    Sikandar, Asfandyar; Lopatniuk, Maria; Luzhetskyy, Andriy; Koehnke, Jesko; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2020-10-01)
    Thioviridamide-like compounds, including thioholgamides, are ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products with potent anticancer cell activity and an unprecedented structure. Very little is known about their biosynthesis, and we were intrigued by the β-hydroxy-N1, N3-dimethylhistidinium moiety found in these compounds. Here we report the construction of a heterologous host capable of producing thioholgamide with a 15-fold increased yield compared to the wild-type strain. A knockout of thoJ, encoding a predicted nonheme monooxygenase, shows that ThoJ is essential for thioholgamide β-hydroxylation. The crystal structure of ThoJ exhibits a typical mono/dioxygenase fold with conserved key active-site residues. Yet, ThoJ possesses a very large substrate binding pocket that appears suitable to receive a cyclic thioholgamide intermediate for hydroxylation. The improved production of the heterologous host will enable the dissection of the individual biosynthetic steps involved in biosynthesis of this exciting RiPP family.
  • Loseolamycins: A Group of New Bioactive Alkylresorcinols Produced after Heterologous Expression of a Type III PKS from micromonospora endolithica.

    Lasch, Constanze; Gummerlich, Nils; Myronovskyi, Maksym; Palusczak, Anja; Zapp, Josef; Luzhetskyy, Andriy; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-10-09)
    Natural products are a valuable source of biologically active compounds with potential applications in medicine and agriculture. Unprecedented scaffold diversity of natural products and biocatalysts from their biosynthetic pathways are of fundamental importance. Heterologous expression and refactoring of natural product biosynthetic pathways are generally regarded as a promising approach to discover new secondary metabolites of microbial origin. Here, we present the identification of a new group of alkylresorcinols after transcriptional activation and heterologous expression of the type III polyketide synthase of Micromonospora endolithica. The most abundant compounds loseolamycins A1 and A2 have been purified and their structures were elucidated by NMR. Loseolamycins contain an unusual branched hydroxylated aliphatic chain which is provided by the host metabolism and is incorporated as a starter fatty acid unit. The isolated loseolamycins show activity against gram-positive bacteria and inhibit the growth of the monocot weed Agrostis stolonifera in a germination assay. The biosynthetic pathway leading to the production of loseolamycins is proposed in this paper.
  • Isolation and identification of Streptomyces sp. Act4Zk, a good producer of Staurosporine and some derivatives.

    Khosravi Babadi, Z; Ebrahimipour, G; Wink, J; Narmani, A; Risdian, C; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Society for Applied Microbiology, 2020-10-15)
    In this study, strain Streptomyces sp. Act4Zk was isolated based on a method developed for the isolation of myxobacteria. Due to the low efficiency of the majority of conventional DNA extraction techniques, for molecular identification of the strain Streptomyces sp. Act4Zk, a new technique for DNA extraction of Actinobacteria was developed. In order to explore potential bioactivities of the strain, extracts of the fermented broth culture were prepared by an organic solvent (i.e. ethyl acetate) extraction method using. These ethyl acetate extracts were subjected to HPLC fractionation against standard micro-organisms, followed by LC/MS analysis. Based on morphological, physiological, biochemical and 16S rRNA gene sequence data, strain Streptomyces sp. Act4Zk is likely to be a new species of Streptomyces, close to Streptomyces genecies and Streptomyces roseolilacinus. Antimicrobial assay indicated high antifungal activity as well as antibacterial activity against Mycobacterium smegmatis and Gram-positive bacteria for the new strain. HPLC and LC/MS analyses of the extracts led to the identification of three different compounds and confirmed our hypothesis that the interesting species of the genus Streptomyces being a good producer of staurosporine and some derivatives.
  • Applying a Chemogeographic Strategy for Natural Product Discovery from the Marine Cyanobacterium .

    Leber, Christopher A; Naman, C Benjamin; Keller, Lena; Almaliti, Jehad; Caro-Diaz, Eduardo J E; Glukhov, Evgenia; Joseph, Valsamma; Sajeevan, T P; Reyes, Andres Joshua; Biggs, Jason S; et al. (MDPI, 2020-10-14)
    The tropical marine cyanobacterium Moorena bouillonii occupies a large geographic range across the Indian and Western Tropical Pacific Oceans and is a prolific producer of structurally unique and biologically active natural products. An ensemble of computational approaches, including the creation of the ORCA (Objective Relational Comparative Analysis) pipeline for flexible MS1 feature detection and multivariate analyses, were used to analyze various M. bouillonii samples. The observed chemogeographic patterns suggested the production of regionally specific natural products by M. bouillonii. Analyzing the drivers of these chemogeographic patterns allowed for the identification, targeted isolation, and structure elucidation of a regionally specific natural product, doscadenamide A (1). Analyses of MS2 fragmentation patterns further revealed this natural product to be part of an extensive family of herein annotated, proposed natural structural analogs (doscadenamides B-J, 2-10); the ensemble of structures reflect a combinatorial biosynthesis using nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) and polyketide synthase (PKS) components. Compound 1 displayed synergistic in vitro cancer cell cytotoxicity when administered with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). These discoveries illustrate the utility in leveraging chemogeographic patterns for prioritizing natural product discovery efforts.
  • Engineering Corynebacterium glutamicum with a comprehensive genomic library and phage-based vectors.

    Marques, Filipe; Luzhetskyy, Andriy; Mendes, Marta V; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-08-20)
    The Gram-positive bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum sustains the industrial production of chiral molecules such as L-amino acids. Through heterologous gene expression, C. glutamicum is becoming a sustainable source of small organic molecules and added-value chemicals. The current methods to implement heterologous genes in C. glutamicum rely on replicative vectors requiring lasting selection or chromosomal integration using homologous recombination. Here, we present a set of dedicated and transversal tools for genome editing and gene delivery into C. glutamicum. We generated a cosmid-based library suitable for efficient double allelic exchange, covering more than 94% of the chromosome with an average 5.1x coverage. We employed the library and an iterative marker excision system to generate the carotenoid-free C. glutamicum BT1-C31-Albino (BCA) host, featuring the attachment sites for actinophages ϕC31 and ϕBT1 for one-step chromosomal integration. As a proof-of-principle, we employed a ϕC31-based integration and a Cre system for the markerless expression of the type III polyketide synthase RppA, and a ϕBT1-based integration system for the expression of the phosphopantetheinylation-dependent non-ribosomal peptide synthetase BpsA in the C. glutamicum BCA host. The developed genomic library and microbial host, and the characterized molecular tools will contribute to the study of the physiology and the rise of C. glutamicum as a leading host for drug discovery.
  • Synthetic studies of cystobactamids as antibiotics and bacterial imaging carriers lead to compounds with high: In vivo efficacy

    Testolin, Giambattista; Cirnski, Katarina; Rox, Katharina; Prochnow, Hans; Fetz, Verena; Grandclaudon, Charlotte; Mollner, Tim; Baiyoumy, Alain; Ritter, Antje; Leitner, Christian; et al. (RSC, 2020-01-01)
    There is an alarming scarcity of novel chemical matter with bioactivity against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. Cystobactamids, recently discovered natural products from myxobacteria, are an exception to this trend. Their unusual chemical structure, composed of oligomeric para-aminobenzoic acid moieties, is associated with a high antibiotic activity through the inhibition of gyrase. In this study, structural determinants of cystobactamid's antibacterial potency were defined at five positions, which were varied using three different synthetic routes to the cystobactamid scaffold. The potency against Acinetobacter baumannii could be increased ten-fold to an MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) of 0.06 μg mL−1, and the previously identified spectrum gap of Klebsiella pneumoniae could be closed compared to the natural products (MIC of 0.5 μg mL−1). Proteolytic degradation of cystobactamids by the resistance factor AlbD was prevented by an amide-triazole replacement. Conjugation of cystobactamid's N-terminal tetrapeptide to a Bodipy moiety induced the selective localization of the fluorophore for bacterial imaging purposes. Finally, a first in vivo proof of concept was obtained in an E. coli infection mouse model, where derivative 22 led to the reduction of bacterial loads (cfu, colony-forming units) in muscle, lung and kidneys by five orders of magnitude compared to vehicle-treated mice. These findings qualify cystobactamids as highly promising lead structures against infections caused by Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial pathogens.
  • Protein-Templated Hit Identification through an Ugi Four-Component Reaction.

    Mancini, Federica; Unver, M Yagiz; Elgaher, Walid A M; Jumde, Varsha R; Alhayek, Alaa; Lukat, Peer; Herrmann, Jennifer; Witte, Martin D; Köck, Matthias; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; et al. (Wiley-VCH, 2020-05-19)
  • Drug Administration Routes Impact the Metabolism of a Synthetic Cannabinoid in the Zebrafish Larvae Model.

    Park, Yu Mi; Meyer, Markus R; Müller, Rolf; Herrmann, Jennifer; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-09-29)
    Zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae have gained attention as a valid model to study in vivo drug metabolism and to predict human metabolism. The microinjection of compounds, oligonucleotides, or pathogens into zebrafish embryos at an early developmental stage is a well-established technique. Here, we investigated the metabolism of zebrafish larvae after microinjection of methyl 2-(1-(5-fluoropentyl)-1H-pyrrolo[2,3-b]pyridine-3-carboxamido)-3,3-dimethylbutanoate (7'N-5F-ADB) as a representative of recently introduced synthetic cannabinoids. Results were compared to human urine data and data from the in vitro HepaRG model and the metabolic pathway of 7'N-5F-ADB were reconstructed. Out of 27 metabolites detected in human urine samples, 19 and 15 metabolites were present in zebrafish larvae and HepaRG cells, respectively. The route of administration to zebrafish larvae had a major impact and we found a high number of metabolites when 7'N-5F-ADB was microinjected into the caudal vein, heart ventricle, or hindbrain. We further studied the spatial distribution of the parent compound and its metabolites by mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) of treated zebrafish larvae to demonstrate the discrepancy in metabolite profiles among larvae exposed through different administration routes. In conclusion, zebrafish larvae represent a superb model for studying drug metabolism, and when combined with MSI, the optimal administration route can be determined based on in vivo drug distribution.
  • DIGGER: exploring the functional role of alternative splicing in protein interactions.

    Louadi, Zakaria; Yuan, Kevin; Gress, Alexander; Tsoy, Olga; Kalinina, Olga V; Baumbach, Jan; Kacprowski, Tim; List, Markus; IPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (OxfordUniversity Press, 2020-09-25)
    Alternative splicing plays a major role in regulating the functional repertoire of the proteome. However, isoform-specific effects to protein-protein interactions (PPIs) are usually overlooked, making it impossible to judge the functional role of individual exons on a systems biology level. We overcome this barrier by integrating protein-protein interactions, domain-domain interactions and residue-level interactions information to lift exon expression analysis to a network level. Our user-friendly database DIGGER is available at and allows users to seamlessly switch between isoform and exon-centric views of the interactome and to extract sub-networks of relevant isoforms, making it an essential resource for studying mechanistic consequences of alternative splicing.
  • Amidochelocardin Overcomes Resistance Mechanisms Exerted on Tetracyclines and Natural Chelocardin.

    Hennessen, Fabienne; Miethke, Marcus; Zaburannyi, Nestor; Loose, Maria; Lukežič, Tadeja; Bernecker, Steffen; Hüttel, Stephan; Jansen, Rolf; Schmiedel, Judith; Fritzenwanker, Moritz; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-18)
    The reassessment of known but neglected natural compounds is a vital strategy for providing novel lead structures urgently needed to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Scaffolds with resistance-breaking properties represent the most promising candidates for a successful translation into future therapeutics. Our study focuses on chelocardin, a member of the atypical tetracyclines, and its bioengineered derivative amidochelocardin, both showing broad-spectrum antibacterial activity within the ESKAPE (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) panel. Further lead development of chelocardins requires extensive biological and chemical profiling to achieve favorable pharmaceutical properties and efficacy. This study shows that both molecules possess resistance-breaking properties enabling the escape from most common tetracycline resistance mechanisms. Further, we show that these compounds are potent candidates for treatment of urinary tract infections due to their in vitro activity against a large panel of multidrug-resistant uropathogenic clinical isolates. In addition, the mechanism of resistance to natural chelocardin was identified as relying on efflux processes, both in the chelocardin producer Amycolatopsis sulphurea and in the pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae. Resistance development in Klebsiella led primarily to mutations in ramR, causing increased expression of the acrAB-tolC efflux pump. Most importantly, amidochelocardin overcomes this resistance mechanism, revealing not only the improved activity profile but also superior resistance-breaking properties of this novel antibacterial compound.
  • -Aryl-3-mercaptosuccinimides as Antivirulence Agents Targeting Pseudomonas aeruginosa Elastase and Clostridium Collagenases.

    Konstantinović, Jelena; Yahiaoui, Samir; Alhayek, Alaa; Haupenthal, Jörg; Schönauer, Esther; Andreas, Anastasia; Kany, Andreas M; Müller, Rolf; Koehnke, Jesko; Berger, Fabian K; et al. (ACS, 2020-06-17)
    In light of the global antimicrobial-resistance crisis, there is an urgent need for novel bacterial targets and antibiotics with novel modes of action. It has been shown that Pseudomonas aeruginosa elastase (LasB) and Clostridium histolyticum (Hathewaya histolytica) collagenase (ColH) play a significant role in the infection process and thereby represent promising antivirulence targets. Here, we report novel N-aryl-3-mercaptosuccinimide inhibitors that target both LasB and ColH, displaying potent activities in vitro and high selectivity for the bacterial over human metalloproteases. Additionally, the inhibitors demonstrate no signs of cytotoxicity against selected human cell lines and in a zebrafish embryo toxicity model. Furthermore, the most active ColH inhibitor shows a significant reduction of collagen degradation in an ex vivo pig-skin model.
  • Natural Products Impacting DNA Methyltransferases and Histone Deacetylases.

    Akone, Sergi Herve; Ntie-Kang, Fidele; Stuhldreier, Fabian; Ewonkem, Monique Bassomo; Noah, Alexandre Mboene; Mouelle, Simon Eitel Misse; Müller, Rolf; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-08-13)
    Epigenetics refers to heritable changes in gene expression and chromatin structure without change in a DNA sequence. Several epigenetic modifications and respective regulators have been reported. These include DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, histone post-translational modifications, and non-coding RNAs. Emerging evidence has revealed that epigenetic dysregulations are involved in a wide range of diseases including cancers. Therefore, the reversible nature of epigenetic modifications concerning activation or inhibition of enzymes involved could be promising targets and useful tools for the elucidation of cellular and biological phenomena. In this review, emphasis is laid on natural products that inhibit DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) making them promising candidates for the development of lead structures for anticancer-drugs targeting epigenetic modifications. However, most of the natural products targeting HDAC and/or DNMT lack isoform selectivity, which is important for determining their potential use as therapeutic agents. Nevertheless, the structures presented in this review offer the well-founded basis that screening and chemical modifications of natural products will in future provide not only leads to the identification of more specific inhibitors with fewer side effects, but also important features for the elucidation of HDAC and DNMT function with respect to cancer treatment.
  • Biosynthesis of Cittilins, Unusual Ribosomally Synthesized and Post-translationally Modified Peptides from Myxococcus xanthus

    Hug, Joachim J.; Dastbaz, Jan; Adam, Sebastian; Revermann, Ole; Koehnke, Jesko; Krug, Daniel; Müller, Rolf; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2020-07-08)
    Cittilins are secondary metabolites from myxobacteria comprised of three l-tyrosines and one l-isoleucine forming a bicyclic tetrapeptide scaffold with biaryl and aryl-oxygen-aryl ether bonds. Here we reveal that cittilins belong to the ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide (RiPP) family of natural products, for which only the crocagins have been reported from myxobacteria. A 27 amino acid precursor peptide harbors a C-terminal four amino acid core peptide, which is enzymatically modified and finally exported to yield cittilins. The small biosynthetic gene cluster responsible for cittilin biosynthesis also encodes a cytochrome P450 enzyme and a methyltransferase, whereas a gene encoding a prolyl endopeptidase for the cleavage of the precursor peptide is located outside of the cittilin biosynthetic gene cluster. We confirm the roles of the biosynthetic genes responsible for the formation of cittilins using targeted gene inactivation and heterologous expression in Streptomyces ssp. We also report first steps toward the biochemical characterization of the proposed biosynthetic pathway in vitro. An investigation of the cellular uptake properties of cittilin A connected it to a potential biological function as an inhibitor of the prokaryotic carbon storage regulator A (CsrA).
  • ClbR Is the Key Transcriptional Activator of Colibactin Gene Expression in Escherichia coli.

    Wallenstein, Alexander; Rehm, Nadine; Brinkmann, Marina; Selle, Martina; Bossuet-Greif, Nadège; Sauer, Daniel; Bunk, Boyke; Spröer, Cathrin; Wami, Haleluya Tesfaye; Homburg, Stefan; et al. (ASM, 2020-07-15)
    Colibactin is a nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid natural product expressed by different members of the Enterobacteriaceae which can be correlated with induction of DNA double-strand breaks and interference with cell cycle progression in eukaryotes. Regulatory features of colibactin expression are only incompletely understood. We used Escherichia coli strain M1/5 as a model to investigate regulation of expression of the colibactin determinant at the transcriptional level and to characterize regulatory elements located within the colibactin pathogenicity island itself. We measured clbR transcription in vitro and observed that cultivation in defined minimal media led to increased colibactin expression relative to rich media. Transcription of clbR directly responds to iron availability. We also characterized structural DNA elements inside the colibactin determinant involved in ClbR-dependent regulation, i.e., ClbR binding sites and a variable number of tandem repeats located upstream of clbR We investigated the impact of clbR overexpression or deletion at the transcriptome and proteome levels. Moreover, we compared global gene regulation under these conditions with that occurring upon overexpression or deletion of clbQ, which affects the flux of colibactin production. Combining the results of the transcriptome and proteome analyses with indirect measurements of colibactin levels by cell culture assays and an approximate quantification of colibactin via the second product of colibactin cleavage from precolibactin, N-myristoyl-d-asparagine, we demonstrate that the variable number of tandem repeats plays a significant regulatory role in colibactin expression. We identify ClbR as the only transcriptional activator known so far that is specific and essential for efficient regulation of colibactin production.IMPORTANCE The nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid colibactin can be considered a bacterial virulence factor involved in extraintestinal infection and also a procarcinogen. Nevertheless, and despite its genotoxic effect, colibactin expression can also inhibit bacterial or tumor growth and correlates with probiotic anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Although the biological function of this natural compound has been studied extensively, our understanding of the regulation of colibactin expression is still far from complete. We investigated in detail the role of regulatory elements involved in colibactin expression and in the growth conditions that promote colibactin expression. In this way, our data shed light on the regulatory mechanisms involved in colibactin expression and may support the expression and purification of this interesting nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid for further molecular characterization.
  • Identification of a Biosynthetic Gene Cluster Responsible for the Production of a New Pyrrolopyrimidine Natural Product-Huimycin.

    Shuai, Hui; Myronovskyi, Maksym; Nadmid, Suvd; Luzhetskyy, Andriy; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-07-18)
    Pyrrolopyrimidines are an important class of natural products with a broad spectrum of biological activities, including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer or anti-inflammatory. Here, we present the identification of a biosynthetic gene cluster from the rare actinomycete strain Kutzneria albida DSM 43870, which leads to the production of huimycin, a new member of the pyrrolopyrimidine family of compounds. The huimycin gene cluster was successfully expressed in the heterologous host strain Streptomyces albus Del14. The compound was purified, and its structure was elucidated by means of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The minimal huimycin gene cluster was identified through sequence analysis and a series of gene deletion experiments. A model for huimycin biosynthesis is also proposed in this paper.
  • How to Study the Metabolism of New Psychoactive Substances for the Purpose of Toxicological Screenings-A Follow-Up Study Comparing Pooled Human Liver S9, HepaRG Cells, and Zebrafish Larvae.

    Wagmann, Lea; Frankenfeld, Fabian; Park, Yu Mi; Herrmann, Jennifer; Fischmann, Svenja; Westphal, Folker; Müller, Rolf; Flockerzi, Veit; Meyer, Markus R; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-07-17)
    The new psychoactive substances (NPS) market continues to be very dynamic. A large number of compounds belonging to diverse chemical groups continue to emerge. This makes their detection in biological samples challenging for clinical and forensic toxicologists. Knowledge of the metabolic fate of NPS is crucial for developing comprehensive screening procedures. As human studies are not feasible due to ethical concerns, the current study aimed to compare the NPS' metabolic pattern in incubations with pooled human liver S9 fraction (pHLS9), human liver HepaRG cells, and zebrafish larvae. The latter model was recently shown to be a promising preclinical surrogate for human hepatic metabolism of a synthetic cannabinoid. However, studies concerning other NPS classes are still missing and therefore an amphetamine-based N-methoxybenzyl (NBOMe) compound, a synthetic cathinone, a pyrrolidinophenone analog, a lysergamide, as well as another synthetic cannabinoid were included in the current study. Liquid chromatography coupled to Orbitrap-based high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry was used to analyze metabolic data. Zebrafish larvae were found to produce the highest number of phase I but also phase II metabolites (79 metabolites in total), followed by HepaRG cells (66 metabolites). Incubations with pHLS9 produced the least metabolites (57 metabolites). Furthermore, the involvement of monooxygenases and esterases in the metabolic phase I transformations of 4F-MDMB-BINACA was elucidated using single-enzyme incubations. Several cytochrome P450 (CYP) isozymes were shown to contribute, and CYP3A5 was involved in all CYP-catalyzed reactions, while amide and ester hydrolysis were catalyzed by the human carboxylesterase (hCES) isoforms hCES1b and/or hCES1c. Finally, metabolites were compared to those present in human biosamples if data were available. Overall, the metabolic patterns in HepaRG cells provided the worst overlap with that in human biosamples. Zebrafish larvae experiments agreed best with data found in human plasma and urine analysis. The current study underlines the potential of zebrafish larvae as a tool for elucidating the toxicokinetics of NPS in the future.
  • Comparative Target Analysis of Chlorinated Biphenyl Antimicrobials Highlights MenG as a Molecular Target of Triclocarban.

    Macsics, Robert; Hackl, Mathias W; Fetzer, Christian; Mostert, Dietrich; Bender, Jennifer; Layer, Franziska; Sieber, Stephan A; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (2020-08-03)
    Triclocarban (TCC), a formerly used disinfectant, kills bacteria via an unknown mechanism of action. A structural hallmark is its N,N'-diaryl urea motif, which is also present in other antibiotics, including the recently reported small molecule PK150. We show here that, like PK150, TCC exhibits an inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus menaquinone metabolism via inhibition of the biosynthesis protein demethylmenaquinone methyltransferase (MenG). However, the activity spectrum (MIC90) of TCC across a broad range of multidrug-resistant staphylococcus and enterococcus strains was much narrower than that of PK150. Accordingly, TCC did not cause an overactivation of signal peptidase SpsB, a hallmark of the PK150 mode of action. Furthermore, we were able to rule out inhibition of FabI, a confirmed target of the diaryl ether antibiotic triclosan (TCS). Differences in the target profiles of TCC and TCS were further investigated by proteomic analysis, showing complex but rather distinct changes in the protein expression profile of S. aureus Downregulation of the arginine deiminase pathway provided additional evidence for an effect on bacterial energy metabolism by TCC.IMPORTANCE TCC's widespread use as an antimicrobial agent has made it a ubiquitous environmental pollutant despite its withdrawal due to ecological and toxicological concerns. With its antibacterial mechanism of action still being unknown, we undertook a comparative target analysis between TCC, PK150 (a recently discovered antibacterial compound with structural resemblance to TCC), and TCS (another widely employed chlorinated biphenyl antimicrobial) in the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus We show that there are distinct differences in each compound's mode of action, but also identify a shared target between TCC and PK150, the interference with menaquinone metabolism by inhibition of MenG. The prevailing differences, however, which also manifest in a remarkably better broad-spectrum activity of PK150, suggest that even high levels of TCC or TCS resistance observed by continuous environmental exposure may not affect the potential of PK150 or related N,N'-diaryl urea compounds as new antibiotic drug candidates against multidrug-resistant infections.
  • Identification of a Novel LysR-Type Transcriptional Regulator in Staphylococcus aureus That Is Crucial for Secondary Tissue Colonization during Metastatic Bloodstream Infection.

    Groma, Michaela; Horst, Sarah A; Das, Sudip; Huettel, Bruno; Klepsch, Maximilian; Rudel, Thomas; Medina, Eva; Fraunholz, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-08-25)
    Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of bacteremia that can lead to severe complications once the bacteria exit the bloodstream and establish infection in secondary organs. Despite its clinical relevance, little is known about the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections. Here, we used an S. aureus transposon mutant library coupled to transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-Seq) to identify genes that are critical for efficient bacterial colonization of secondary organs in a murine model of metastatic bloodstream infection. Our transposon screen identified a LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was required for efficient colonization of secondary organs such as the kidneys in infected mice. The critical role of LTTR in secondary organ colonization was confirmed using an isogenic mutant deficient in the expression of LTTR. To identify the set of genes controlled by LTTR, we used an S. aureus strain carrying the LTTR gene in an inducible expression plasmid. Gene expression analysis upon induction of LTTR showed increased transcription of genes involved in branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis, a methionine sulfoxide reductase, and a copper transporter as well as decreased transcription of genes coding for urease and components of pyrimidine nucleotides. Furthermore, we show that transcription of LTTR is repressed by glucose, is induced under microaerobic conditions, and required trace amounts of copper ions. Our data thus pinpoints LTTR as an important element that enables a rapid adaptation of S. aureus to the changing host microenvironment.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that can disseminate via the bloodstream and establish metastatic infections in distant organs. To achieve a better understanding of the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections, we used in this study a Staphylococcus aureus transposon mutant library in a murine model of intravenous infection, where bacteria first colonize the liver as the primary infection site and subsequently progress to secondary sites such as the kidney and bones. We identified a novel LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was specifically required by S. aureus for efficient colonization of secondary organs. We also determined the transcriptional activation as well as the regulon of LTTR, which suggests that this regulator is involved in the metabolic adaptation of S. aureus to the host microenvironment found in secondary infection sites.

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