• Development and validation of a UHPLC-MS/MS procedure for quantification of the Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal in bacterial culture after acetylation for characterization of new quorum sensing inhibitors.

      Maurer, Christine K; Steinbach, Anke; Hartmann, Rolf W; Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), Campus C2.3, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. Electronic address: christine.maurer@helmholtz-hzi.de. (2013-12)
      The appearance of antibiotic resistance requires novel therapeutic strategies. One approach is to selectively attenuate bacterial pathogenicity by interfering with bacterial cell-to-cell communication known as quorum sensing. The PQS quorum sensing system of Pseudomonas aeruginosa employs as signal molecule the Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (PQS; 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-(1H)-quinolone), a key contributor to virulence and biofilm formation. Thus, interference with PQS production is considered as promising approach for the development of novel anti-infectives. Therefore, in this study, we developed and validated an ultra-high performance liquid chromatographic-tandem mass spectrometric approach for reliable quantification of PQS in P. aeruginosa cultures for activity determination of new quorum sensing inhibitors. The poor chromatographic properties of PQS reported by others could be overcome by fast microwave-assisted acetylation. The validation procedure including matrix effects, recovery, process efficiency, selectivity, carry-over, accuracy and precision, stability of the processed sample, and limit of quantification demonstrated that the method fulfilled all requirements of common validation guidelines. Its applicability was successfully proven in routine testing. In addition, two-point calibration was shown to be applicable for fast and reliable PQS quantification saving time and resources. In summary, the described method provides a powerful tool for the discovery of new quorum sensing inhibitors as potential anti-infectives and illustrated the usefulness of chemical derivatization, acetylation, in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis.
    • Discovery of antagonists of PqsR, a key player in 2-alkyl-4-quinolone-dependent quorum sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Lu, Cenbin; Kirsch, Benjamin; Zimmer, Christina; de Jong, Johannes C; Henn, Claudia; Maurer, Christine K; Müsken, Mathias; Häussler, Susanne; Steinbach, Anke; Hartmann, Rolf W; et al. (2012-03-23)
      The pqs quorum sensing communication system of Pseudomonas aeruginosa controls virulence factor production and is involved in biofilm formation, therefore playing an important role for pathogenicity. In order to attenuate P. aeruginosa pathogenicity, we followed a ligand-based drug design approach and synthesized a series of compounds targeting PqsR, the receptor of the pqs system. In vitro evaluation using a reporter gene assay in Escherichia coli led to the discovery of the first competitive PqsR antagonists, which are highly potent (K(d,app) of compound 20: 7 nM). These antagonists are able to reduce the production of the virulence factor pyocyanin in P. aeruginosa. Our finding offers insights into the ligand-receptor interaction of PqsR and provides a promising starting point for further drug design.
    • Discovery of the first small-molecule CsrA-RNA interaction inhibitors using biophysical screening technologies.

      Maurer, Christine K; Fruth, Martina; Empting, Martin; Avrutina, Olga; Hoßmann, Jörn; Nadmid, Suvd; Gorges, Jan; Herrmann, Jennifer; Kazmaier, Uli; Dersch, Petra; et al. (2016-06)
      CsrA is a global post-transcriptional regulator protein affecting mRNA translation and/or stability. Widespread among bacteria, it is essential for their full virulence and thus represents a promising anti-infective drug target. Therefore, we aimed at the discovery of CsrA-RNA interaction inhibitors. Results & methodology: We followed two strategies: a screening of small molecules (A) and an RNA ligand-based approach (B). Using surface plasmon resonance-based binding and fluorescence polarization-based competition assays, (A) yielded seven small-molecule inhibitors, among them MM14 (IC50 of 4 µM). (B) resulted in RNA-based inhibitor GGARNA (IC50 of 113 µM).
    • Flexible Fragment Growing Boosts Potency of Quorum Sensing Inhibitors against Pseudomonas aeruginosa Virulence.

      Zender, Michael; Witzgall, Florian; Kiefer, Alexander Felix; Kirsch, Benjamin; Maurer, Christine K; Kany, Andreas M; Xu, Ningna; Schmelz, Stefan; Börger, Carsten; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; et al. (Wiley-VCH, 2019-11-11)
      Hit-to-lead optimization is a critical phase in drug discovery. Herein, we report on the fragment-based discovery and optimization of 2-amino pyridine derivatives as a novel lead-like structure for the treatment of the dangerous opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa . We pursue an innovative treatment strategy by interfering with the Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (PQS) Quorum Sensing (QS) system leading to an abolishment of bacterial pathogenicity. Our compounds act on the PQS receptor (PqsR), a key transcription factor controlling the expression of various pathogenicity determinants. In this target-driven approach, we made use of biophysical screening via surface plasmon resonance (SPR) followed by isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC)-enabled enthalpic efficiency (EE) evaluation. Hit optimization then involved growth vector identification and exploitation. Astonishingly, the latter was successfully achieved by introducing flexible linkers rather than rigid motifs leading to a boost in activity on the target receptor and anti-virulence potency.
    • In-depth Profiling of MvfR-Regulated Small Molecules in Pseudomonas aeruginosa after Quorum Sensing Inhibitor Treatment.

      Allegretta, Giuseppe; Maurer, Christine K; Eberhard, Jens; Maura, Damien; Hartmann, Rolf W; Rahme, Laurence; Empting, Martin; Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS),Saarland 9 University, 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (2017)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative bacterium, which causes opportunistic infections in immuno-compromised individuals. Due to its multiple resistances toward antibiotics, the development of new drugs is required. Interfering with Quorum Sensing (QS), a cell-to-cell communication system, has shown to be highly efficient in reducing P. aeruginosa pathogenicity. One of its QS systems employs Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (PQS) and 4-hydroxy-2-heptylquinoline (HHQ) as signal molecules. Both activate the transcriptional regulator MvfR (Multiple Virulence Factor Regulator), also called PqsR, driving the production of QS molecules as well as toxins and biofilm formation. The aim of this work was to elucidate the effects of QS inhibitors (QSIs), such as MvfR antagonists and PqsBC inhibitors, on the biosynthesis of the MvfR-regulated small molecules 2'-aminoacetophenone (2-AA), dihydroxyquinoline (DHQ), HHQ, PQS, and 4-hydroxy-2-heptylquinoline-N-oxide (HQNO). The employed synthetic MvfR antagonist fully inhibited pqs small molecule formation showing expected sigmoidal dose-response curves for 2-AA, HQNO, HHQ and PQS. Surprisingly, DHQ levels were enhanced at lower antagonist concentrations followed by a full suppression at higher QSI amounts. This particular bi-phasic profile hinted at the accumulation of a biosynthetic intermediate resulting in the observed overproduction of the shunt product DHQ. Additionally, investigations on PqsBC inhibitors showed a reduction of MvfR natural ligands, while increased 2-AA, DHQ and HQNO levels compared to the untreated cells were detected. Moreover, PqsBC inhibitors did not show any significant effect in PA14 pqsC mutant demonstrating their target selectivity. As 2-AA is important for antibacterial tolerance, the QSIs were evaluated in their capability to attenuate persistence. Indeed, persister cells were reduced along with 2-AA inhibition resulting from MvfR antagonism, but not from PqsBC inhibition. In conclusion, antagonizing MvfR using a dosage capable of fully suppressing this QS system will lead to a favorable therapeutic outcome as DHQ overproduction is avoided and bacterial persistence is reduced.
    • Molecular basis of HHQ biosynthesis: molecular dynamics simulations, enzyme kinetic and surface plasmon resonance studies

      Steinbach, Anke; Maurer, Christine K; Weidel, Elisabeth; Henn, Claudia; Brengel, Christian; Hartmann, Rolf W; Negri, Matthias (2013-08-01)
      Abstract Background PQS (P seudomonas Quinolone Signal) and its precursor HHQ are signal molecules of the P. aeruginosa quorum sensing system. They explicate their role in mammalian pathogenicity by binding to the receptor PqsR that induces virulence factor production and biofilm formation. The enzyme PqsD catalyses the biosynthesis of HHQ. Results Enzyme kinetic analysis and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor experiments were used to determine mechanism and substrate order of the biosynthesis. Comparative analysis led to the identification of domains involved in functionality of PqsD. A kinetic cycle was set up and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to study the molecular bases of the kinetics of PqsD. Trajectory analysis, pocket volume measurements, binding energy estimations and decompositions ensured insights into the binding mode of the substrates anthraniloyl-CoA and β-ketodecanoic acid. Conclusions Enzyme kinetics and SPR experiments hint at a ping-pong mechanism for PqsD with ACoA as first substrate. Trajectory analysis of different PqsD complexes evidenced ligand-dependent induced-fit motions affecting the modified ACoA funnel access to the exposure of a secondary channel. A tunnel-network is formed in which Ser317 plays an important role by binding to both substrates. Mutagenesis experiments resulting in the inactive S317F mutant confirmed the importance of this residue. Two binding modes for β-ketodecanoic acid were identified with distinct catalytic mechanism preferences.
    • Molecular basis of HHQ biosynthesis: molecular dynamics simulations, enzyme kinetic and surface plasmon resonance studies.

      Steinbach, Anke; Maurer, Christine K; Weidel, Elisabeth; Henn, Claudia; Brengel, Christian; Hartmann, Rolf W; Negri, Matthias (2013)
      PQS (PseudomonasQuinolone Signal) and its precursor HHQ are signal molecules of the P. aeruginosa quorum sensing system. They explicate their role in mammalian pathogenicity by binding to the receptor PqsR that induces virulence factor production and biofilm formation. The enzyme PqsD catalyses the biosynthesis of HHQ.
    • Optimization of anti-virulence PqsR antagonists regarding aqueous solubility and biological properties resulting in new insights in structure-activity relationships.

      Lu, Cenbin; Kirsch, Benjamin; Maurer, Christine K; de Jong, Johannes C; Braunshausen, Andrea; Steinbach, Anke; Hartmann, Rolf W; Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland Campus, Geb. C2.3 Universität des Saarlandes, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (2014-05-22)
      Increasing antibiotic resistance urgently requires novel therapeutic options to combat bacterial infections. The anti-virulence therapy selectively intervening with pathogenicity without affecting bacterial viability is such a strategy to overcome resistance. We consider the virulence regulator PqsR as an attractive target in the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and recently discovered the first PqsR antagonists, which, however, suffered from poor aqueous solubility. In this work, the antagonists were structurally modified to become more soluble, and their structure-activity as well as structure-property relationships were studied. A novel promising compound with improved solubility and enhanced anti-virulence activity was discovered (IC50: 3.8 μM, pyocyanin). Our findings emphasize the crucial role of substituents at the 3-position and the carbonyl group at the 4-position for ligand-receptor interactions, and illuminate the way for further optimization of PqsR antagonists as anti-virulence agents.
    • Overcoming the unexpected functional inversion of a PqsR antagonist in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: an in vivo potent antivirulence agent targeting pqs quorum sensing.

      Lu, Cenbin; Maurer, Christine K; Kirsch, Benjamin; Steinbach, Anke; Hartmann, Rolf W; Division of Drug design and optimization. Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland & Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Saarland University. (2014-01-20)
      The virulence regulator PqsR of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is considered as an attractive target for attenuating the bacterial pathogenicity without eliciting resistance. However, despite efforts and desires, no promising PqsR antagonist has been discovered thus far. Now, a surprising functionality change of a highly affine PqsR antagonist in P. aeruginosa is revealed, which is mediated by a bacterial signal molecule synthase and responsible for low cellular potency. Blockade of the susceptible position led to the discovery of the first antivirulence compound that is potent in vivo and targets PqsR, thus providing a proof of concept for this novel antivirulence therapy.