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1.  Different Roles of the Mevalonate and Methylerythritol Phosphate Pathways in Cell Growth and Tanshinone Production of Salvia miltiorrhiza Hairy Roots 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e46797.
Salvia miltiorrhiza has been widely used in the treatment of coronary heart disease. Tanshinones, a group of diterpenoids are the main active ingredients in S. miltiorrhiza. Two biosynthetic pathways were involved in tanshinone biosynthesis in plants: the mevalonate (MVA) pathway in the cytosol and the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway in the plastids. The 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGR) is the rate-limiting enzyme of the MVA pathway. The 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS) and 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) are the key enzymes of the MEP pathway. In this study, to reveal roles of the MVA and the MEP pathways in cell growth and tanshinone production of S. miltiorrhiza hairy roots, specific inhibitors of the two pathways were used to perturb metabolic flux. The results showed that the MVA pathway inhibitor (mevinolin, MEV) was more powerful to inhibit the hairy root growth than the MEP pathway inhibitor (fosmidomycin, FOS). Both MEV and FOS could significantly inhibit tanshinone production, and FOS was more powerful than MEV. An inhibitor (D, L-glyceraldehyde, DLG) of IPP translocation strengthened the inhibitory effects of MEV and FOS on cell growth and tanshinone production. Application of MEV resulted in a significant increase of expression and activity of HMGR at 6 h, and a sharp decrease at 24 h. FOS treatment resulted in a significant increase of DXR and DXS expression and DXS activity at 6 h, and a sharp decrease at 24 h. Our results suggested that the MVA pathway played a major role in cell growth, while the MEP pathway was the main source of tanshinone biosynthesis. Both cell growth and tanshinone production could partially depend on the crosstalk between the two pathways. The inhibitor-mediated changes of tanshinone production were reflected in transcript and protein levels of genes of the MVA and MEP pathways.
PMCID: PMC3510226  PMID: 23209548
2.  Lipophilic Prodrugs of FR900098 Are Antimicrobial against Francisella novicida In Vivo and In Vitro and Show GlpT Independent Efficacy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e38167.
Bacteria, plants, and algae produce isoprenoids through the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway, an attractive pathway for antimicrobial drug development as it is present in prokaryotes and some lower eukaryotes but absent from human cells. The first committed step of the MEP pathway is catalyzed by 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR/MEP synthase). MEP pathway genes have been identified in many biothreat agents, including Francisella, Brucella, Bacillus, Burkholderia, and Yersinia. The importance of the MEP pathway to Francisella is demonstrated by the fact that MEP pathway mutations are lethal. We have previously established that fosmidomycin inhibits purified MEP synthase (DXR) from F. tularensis LVS. FR900098, the acetyl derivative of fosmidomycin, was found to inhibit the activity of purified DXR from F. tularensis LVS (IC50 = 230 nM). Fosmidomycin and FR900098 are effective against purified DXR from Mycobacterium tuberculosis as well, but have no effect on whole cells because the compounds are too polar to penetrate the thick cell wall. Fosmidomycin requires the GlpT transporter to enter cells, and this is absent in some pathogens, including M. tuberculosis. In this study, we have identified the GlpT homologs in F. novicida and tested transposon insertion mutants of glpT. We showed that FR900098 also requires GlpT for full activity against F. novicida. Thus, we synthesized several FR900098 prodrugs that have lipophilic groups to facilitate their passage through the bacterial cell wall and bypass the requirement for the GlpT transporter. One compound, that we termed “compound 1,” was found to have GlpT-independent antimicrobial activity. We tested the ability of this best performing prodrug to inhibit F. novicida intracellular infection of eukaryotic cell lines and the caterpillar Galleria mellonella as an in vivo infection model. As a lipophilic GlpT-independent DXR inhibitor, compound 1 has the potential to be a broad-spectrum antibiotic, and should be effective against most MEP-dependent organisms.
PMCID: PMC3471904  PMID: 23077474
3.  Dxr is essential in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and fosmidomycin resistance is due to a lack of uptake 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:78.
Fosmidomycin is a phosphonic antibiotic which inhibits 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (Dxr), the first committed step of the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis Dxr is encoded by Rv2870c, and although the antibiotic has been shown to inhibit the recombinant enzyme [1], mycobacteria are intrinsically resistant to fosmidomycin at the whole cell level. Fosmidomycin is a hydrophilic molecule and in many bacteria its uptake is an active process involving a cAMP dependent glycerol-3-phosphate transporter (GlpT). The fact that there is no glpT homologue in the M. tuberculosis genome and the highly impervious nature of the hydrophobic mycobacterial cell wall suggests that resistance may be due to a lack of cellular penetration.
We demonstrated that dxr (Rv2780c) is an essential gene in M. tuberculosis, since we could not delete the chromosomal copy unless a second functional copy was provided on an integrating vector. This confirmed that the intracellular target of fosmidomycin was essential as well as sensitive. We looked at the uptake of fosmidomycin in two mycobacterial species, the slow-growing pathogenic M. tuberculosis and the fast-growing, saprophytic Mycobacterium smegmatis; both species were resistant to fosmidomycin to a high level. Fosmidomycin was not accumulated intra-cellularly in M. tuberculosis or M. smegmatis but remained in the extra-cellular medium. In contrast, fosmidomycin uptake was confirmed in the sensitive organism, Escherichia coli. We established that the lack of intra-cellular accumulation was not due to efflux, since efflux pump inhibitors had no effect on fosmidomycin resistance. Finally, we demonstrated that fosmidomycin was not modified by mycobacterial cells or by extracts but remained in a fully functional state.
Taken together, these data demonstrate that fosmidomycin resistance in M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis results from a lack of penetration of the antibiotic to the site of the sensitive target.
PMCID: PMC2409342  PMID: 18489786
4.  Inhibition Studies on Enzymes Involved in Isoprenoid Biosynthesis: Focus on Two Potential Drug Targets: DXR and IDI-2 Enzymes 
Current enzyme inhibition  2011;7(2):10.2174/157340811796575317.
Isoprenoid compounds constitute an immensely diverse group of acyclic, monocyclic and polycyclic compounds that play important roles in all living organisms. Despite the diversity of their structures, this plethora of natural products arises from only two 5-carbon precursors, isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). This review will discuss the enzymes in the mevalonate (MVA) and methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) biosynthetic pathways leading to IPP and DMAPP with a particular focus on MEP synthase (DXR) and IPP isomerase (IDI), which are potential targets for the development of antibiotic compounds. DXR is the second enzyme in the MEP pathway and the only one for which inhibitors with antimicrobial activity at pharmaceutically relevant concentrations are known. All of the published DXR inhibitors are fosmidomycin analogues, except for a few bisphosphonates with moderate inhibitory activity. These far, there are no other candidates that target DXR. IDI was first identified and characterised over 40 years ago (IDI-1) and a second convergently evolved isoform (IDI-2) was discovered in 2001. IDI-1 is a metalloprotein found in Eukarya and many species of Bacteria. Its mechanism has been extensively studied. In contrast, IDI-2 requires reduced flavin mononucleotide as a cofactor. The mechanism of action for IDI-2 is less well defined. This review will describe how lead inhibitors are being improved by structure-based drug design and enzymatic assays against DXR to lead to new drug families and how mechanistic probes are being used to address questions about the mechanisms of the isomerases.
PMCID: PMC3856697  PMID: 24339799
DXR; IDI; isomerase; isopentenyl; isoprenoid; MEP; mevalonate; MVA; reductoisomerase
5.  Structure of 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase in a quaternary complex with a magnesium ion, NADPH and the antimalarial drug fosmidomycin 
The crystal structure of 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) from Escherichia coli complexed with Mg2+, NADPH and fosmidomycin was determined at 2.2 Å resolution. The structure showed a well defined loop conformation at the active site of DXR.
The crystal structure of 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) from Escherichia coli complexed with Mg2+, NADPH and fosmidomycin was solved at 2.2 Å resolution. DXR is the key enzyme in the 2-­C-methyl-d-­erythritol 4-phosphate pathway and is an effective target of antimalarial drugs such as fosmidomycin. In the crystal structure, electron density for the flexible loop covering the active site was clearly observed, indicating the well ordered conformation of DXR upon substrate binding. On the other hand, no electron density was observed for the nicotinamide-ribose portion of NADPH and the position of Asp149 anchoring Mg2+ was shifted by NADPH in the active site.
PMCID: PMC2335089  PMID: 17554164
antimalarial drugs; fosmidomycin; MEP pathway
6.  Antimalarial and Structural Studies of Pyridine-containing Inhibitors of 1-Deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate Reductoisomerase 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2012;4(2):278-282.
1-Deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) in the non-mevalonate isoprene biosynthesis pathway is a target for developing antimalarial drugs. Fosmidomycin, a potent DXR inhibitor, showed safety as well as efficacy against P. falciparum malaria in clinical trials. Based on our previous quantitative structure activity relationship (QSAR) and crystallographic studies, several novel pyridine-containing fosmidomycin derivatives were designed, synthesized and found to be highly potent inhibitors of P. falciparum DXR (PfDXR) having Ki values of 1.9 – 13 nM, with the best one being ~11× more active than fosmidomycin. These compounds also potently block the proliferation of multi-drug resistant P. falciparum with EC50 values as low as 170 nM. A 2.3 Å crystal structure of PfDXR in complex with one of the inhibitors is reported, showing the flexible loop of the protein undergoes conformational changes upon ligand binding and a hydrogen bond and favorable hydrophobic interactions between the pyridine group and PfDXR account for the enhanced activity.
PMCID: PMC3685428  PMID: 23795240
1-deoxy-D-Xylulose-5-Phosphate Reductoisomerase; antimalrial activity; X-ray protein crystallography; inhibitor design
7.  Resistance of Francisella Novicida to Fosmidomycin Associated with Mutations in the Glycerol-3-Phosphate Transporter 
The methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway is essential in most prokaryotes and some lower eukaryotes but absent from human cells, and is a validated target for antimicrobial drug development. The formation of MEP is catalyzed by 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR). MEP pathway genes have been identified in many category A and B biothreat agents, including Francisella tularensis, which causes the zoonosis tularemia. Fosmidomycin (Fos) inhibits purified Francisella DXR. This compound also inhibits the growth of F. tularensis NIH B38, F. novicida and F. tularensis subsp. holarctica LVS bacteria. Related compounds such as FR900098 and the lipophilic prodrug of FR900098 (compound 1) have been developed to improve the bioavailability of these DXR inhibitors. In performing disk-inhibition assays with these compounds, we observed breakthrough colonies of F. novicida in the presence of Fos, suggesting spontaneous development of Fos resistance (FosR). FosR bacteria had decreased sensitivity to both Fos and FR900098. The two most likely targets for the development of mutants would be the DXR enzyme itself or the glycerol-3-phosphate transporter (GlpT) that allows entry of Fos into the bacteria. Sensitivity of FosR F. novicida bacteria to compound 1 was not abated suggesting that spontaneous resistance is not due to mutation of DXR. We thus predicted that the glpT transporter may be mutated leading to this resistant phenotype. Supporting this, transposon insertion mutants at the glpT locus were also found to be resistant to Fos. DNA sequencing of four different spontaneous FosR colonies demonstrated a variety of deletions in the glpT coding region. The overall frequency of FosR mutations in F. novicida was determined to be 6.3 × 10−8. Thus we conclude that one mechanism of resistance of F. novicida to Fos is caused by mutations in GlpT. This is the first description of spontaneous mutations in Francisella leading to FosR.
PMCID: PMC3417576  PMID: 22905031
Francisella; fosmidomycin; resistance; glycerol-3-phosphate transporter
8.  From Zn to Mn: The Study of Novel Manganese-Binding Groups in the Search for New Drugs against Tuberculosis 
Chemical biology & drug design  2011;77(2):117-123.
In most eubacteria, apicomplexans, and most plants, including the causal agents for diseases such as malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis, the methylerythritol phosphate pathway is the route for the biosynthesis of the C5 precursors to the essential isoprenoid class of compounds. Owing to their absence in humans, the enzymes of the methylerythritol phosphate pathway have become attractive targets for drug discovery. This work investigates a new class of inhibitors against the second enzyme of the pathway, 1-Deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (MtDXR). Inhibition of this enzyme may involve the chelation of a crucial active site Mn ion, and the metal chelating moieties studied here have previously been shown to be successful in application to the zinc-dependent metalloproteinases. Quantum mechanics and docking calculations presented in this work suggest the transferability of these metal chelating compounds to Mn-containing MtDXR enzyme, as a promising starting point to the development of potent inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3073702  PMID: 21266015
9.  A second target of the antimalarial and antibacterial agent fosmidomycin revealed by cellular metabolic profiling† 
Biochemistry  2011;50(17):3570-3577.
Antimicrobial drug resistance is an urgent problem in control and treatment of many of the world's most serious infections, including Plasmodium falciparum malaria, tuberculosis, and healthcare-associated infections with Gram-negative bacteria. Because the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential in eubacteria and P. falciparum, and this pathway is not present in humans, there is great interest in targeting the enzymes of non-mevalonate metabolism for antibacterial and antiparasitic drug development. Fosmidomycin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent currently in clinical trials of combination therapies to treat malaria. In vitro, fosmidomycin is known to inhibit the deoxyxylulose phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) enzyme of isoprenoid biosynthesis from multiple pathogenic organisms. To define the in vivo metabolic response to fosmidomycin, we developed a novel mass spectrometry method to quantitate six metabolites of non-mevalonate isoprenoid metabolism from complex biological samples. Using this technique, we validate that the biological effects of fosmidomycin are mediated through blockade of de novo isoprenoid biosynthesis in both P. falciparum malaria parasites and E. coli bacteria: in both organisms, metabolic profiling demonstrated a block in isoprenoid metabolism following fosmidomycin treatment, and growth inhibition due to fosmidomycin was rescued by media supplemented with isoprenoid metabolites. Isoprenoid metabolism proceeded through DXR even in the presence of fosmidomycin, but was inhibited at the level of the downstream enzyme, methylerythritol phosphate cytidyltransferase (IspD). Overexpression of IspD in E. coli conferred fosmidomycin resistance, and fosmidomycin was found to inhibit IspD in vitro. This work has validated fosmidomycin as a biological reagent to block non-mevalonate isoprenoid metabolism, and suggests a second in vivo target for fosmidomycin within isoprenoid biosynthesis, in two evolutionarily diverse pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3082593  PMID: 21438569
10.  1-Deoxy-d-Xylulose 5-Phosphate Reductoisomerase (IspC) from Mycobacterium tuberculosis: towards Understanding Mycobacterial Resistance to Fosmidomycin 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(24):8395-8402.
1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (IspC) catalyzes the first committed step in the mevalonate-independent isopentenyl diphosphate biosynthetic pathway and is a potential drug target in some pathogenic bacteria. The antibiotic fosmidomycin has been shown to inhibit IspC in a number of organisms and is active against most gram-negative bacteria but not gram positives, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, even though the mevalonate-independent pathway is the sole isopentenyl diphosphate biosynthetic pathway in this organism. Therefore, the enzymatic properties of recombinant IspC from M. tuberculosis were characterized. Rv2870c from M. tuberculosis converts 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate to 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate in the presence of NADPH. The enzymatic activity is dependent on the presence of Mg2+ ions and exhibits optimal activity between pH 7.5 and 7.9; the Km for 1-deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate was calculated to be 47.1 μM, and the Km for NADPH was 29.7 μM. The specificity constant of Rv2780c in the forward direction is 1.5 × 106 M−1 min−1, and the reaction is inhibited by fosmidomycin, with a 50% inhibitory concentration of 310 nM. In addition, Rv2870c complements an inactivated chromosomal copy of IspC in Salmonella enterica, and the complemented strain is sensitive to fosmidomycin. Thus, M. tuberculosis resistance to fosmidomycin is not due to intrinsic properties of Rv2870c, and the enzyme appears to be a valid drug target in this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC1316992  PMID: 16321944
11.  Antimalarial and Structural Studies of Pyridine-Containing Inhibitors of 1-Deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate Reductoisomerase 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2012;4(2):278-282.
1-Deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) in the nonmevalonate isoprene biosynthesis pathway is a target for developing antimalarial drugs. Fosmidomycin, a potent DXR inhibitor, showed safety as well as efficacy against Plasmodium falciparum malaria in clinical trials. On the basis of our previous quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) and crystallographic studies, several novel pyridine-containing fosmidomycin derivatives were designed, synthesized, and found to be highly potent inhibitors of P. falciparum DXR (PfDXR) having Ki values of 1.9–13 nM, with the best one being ∼11× more active than fosmidomycin. These compounds also potently block the proliferation of multidrug resistant P. falciparum with EC50 values as low as 170 nM. A 2.3 Å crystal structure of PfDXR in complex with one of the inhibitors is reported, showing that the flexible loop of the protein undergoes conformational changes upon ligand binding and a hydrogen bond and favorable hydrophobic interactions between the pyridine group and the PfDXR account for the enhanced activity.
PMCID: PMC3685428  PMID: 23795240
1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase; antimalarial activity; X-ray protein crystallography; inhibitor design
12.  From Zn to Mn: The Study of Novel Manganese-binding Groups in the Search for New Drugs against Tuberculosis 
Chemical Biology & Drug Design  2011;77(2):117-123.
In most eubacteria, apicomplexans, and most plants, including the causal agents for diseases such as malaria, leprosy, and tuberculosis, the methylerythritol phosphate pathway is the route for the biosynthesis of the C5 precursors to the essential isoprenoid class of compounds. Owing to their absence in humans, the enzymes of the methylerythritol phosphate pathway have become attractive targets for drug discovery. This work investigates a new class of inhibitors against the second enzyme of the pathway, 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase. Inhibition of this enzyme may involve the chelation of a crucial active site Mn ion, and the metal-chelating moieties studied here have previously been shown to be successful in application to the zinc-dependent metalloproteinases. Quantum mechanics and docking calculations presented in this work suggest the transferability of these metal-chelating compounds to Mn-containing 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase enzyme, as a promising starting point to the development of potent inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3073702  PMID: 21266015
drug design; drug discovery; molecular modeling; structure-based
13.  Molecular basis of fosmidomycin's action on the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum 
Scientific Reports  2011;1:9.
The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the deaths of more than a million people each year. Fosmidomycin has been proven to be efficient in the treatment of P. falciparum malaria by inhibiting 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR), an enzyme of the non-mevalonate pathway, which is absent in humans. However, the structural details of DXR inhibition by fosmidomycin in P. falciparum are unknown. Here, we report the crystal structures of fosmidomycin-bound complete quaternary complexes of PfDXR. Our study revealed that (i) an intrinsic flexibility of the PfDXR molecule accounts for an induced-fit movement to accommodate the bound inhibitor in the active site and (ii) a cis arrangement of the oxygen atoms of the hydroxamate group of the bound inhibitor is essential for tight binding of the inhibitor to the active site metal. We expect the present structures to be useful guides for the design of more effective antimalarial compounds.
PMCID: PMC3216497  PMID: 22355528
14.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic study of 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-­phosphate reductoisomerase from Plasmodium falciparum  
1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase from P. falciparum has been crystallized in the presence of NADPH. Diffraction data to 1.85 Å resolution have been collected using synchrotron radiation.
The nonmevalonate pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis present in Plasmodium falciparum is known to be an effective target for antimalarial drugs. The second enzyme of the nonmevalonate pathway, 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR), catalyzes the transformation of 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) to 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP). For crystallographic studies, DXR from the human malaria parasite P. falciparum (PfDXR) was overproduced in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method in the presence of NADPH. X-ray diffraction data to 1.85 Å resolution were collected from a monoclinic crystal form belonging to space group C2 with unit-cell parameters a = 168.89, b = 59.65, c = 86.58 Å, β = 117.8°. Structural analysis by molecular replacement is in progress.
PMCID: PMC2833050  PMID: 20208174
1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase; malaria; nonmevalonate pathway
15.  Evolutionary diversification and characterization of the eubacterial gene family encoding DXR type II, an alternative isoprenoid biosynthetic enzyme 
Isoprenoids constitute a vast family of natural compounds performing diverse and essential functions in all domains of life. In most eubacteria, isoprenoids are synthesized through the methylerythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. The production of MEP is usually catalyzed by deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR-I) but a few organisms use an alternative DXR-like enzyme (DXR-II).
Searches through 1498 bacterial complete proteomes detected 130 sequences with similarity to DXR-II. Phylogenetic analysis identified three well-resolved clades: the DXR-II family (clustering 53 sequences including eleven experimentally verified as functional enzymes able to produce MEP), and two previously uncharacterized NAD(P)-dependent oxidoreductase families (designated DLO1 and DLO2 for DXR-II-like oxidoreductases 1 and 2). Our analyses identified amino acid changes critical for the acquisition of DXR-II biochemical function through type-I functional divergence, two of them mapping onto key residues for DXR-II activity. DXR-II showed a markedly discontinuous distribution, which was verified at several levels: taxonomic (being predominantly found in Alphaproteobacteria and Firmicutes), metabolic (being mostly found in bacteria with complete functional MEP pathways with or without DXR-I), and phenotypic (as no biological/phenotypic property was found to be preferentially distributed among DXR-II-containing strains, apart from pathogenicity in animals). By performing a thorough comparative sequence analysis of GC content, 3:1 dinucleotide frequencies, codon usage and codon adaptation indexes (CAI) between DXR-II sequences and their corresponding genomes, we examined the role of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), as opposed to an scenario of massive gene loss, in the evolutionary origin and diversification of the DXR-II subfamily in bacteria.
Our analyses support a single origin of the DXR-II family through functional divergence, in which constitutes an exceptional model of acquisition and maintenance of redundant gene functions between non-homologous genes as a result of convergent evolution. Subsequently, although old episodic events of HGT could not be excluded, the results supported a prevalent role of gene loss in explaining the distribution of DXR-II in specific pathogenic eubacteria. Our results highlight the importance of the functional characterization of evolutionary shortcuts in isoprenoid biosynthesis for screening specific antibacterial drugs and for regulating the production of isoprenoids of human interest.
PMCID: PMC3847144  PMID: 24004839
DXR-II; Isoprenoid metabolism; Horizontal gene transfer; Gene loss; Functional divergence
16.  Design of Potential Bisubstrate Inhibitors against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) 1-Deoxy-D-Xylulose 5-Phosphate Reductoisomerase (Dxr)—Evidence of a Novel Binding Mode 
MedChemComm  2013;4(7):1099-1104.
In most bacteria, the nonmevalonate pathway is used to synthesize isoprene units. Dxr, the second step in the pathway, catalyzes the NADPH-dependent reductive isomerization of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate (DXP) to 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate (MEP). Dxr is inhibited by natural products fosmidomycin and FR900098, which bind in the DXP binding site. These compounds, while potent inhibitors of Dxr, lack whole cell activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) due to their polarity. Our goal was to use the Mtb Dxr-fosmidomycin co-crystal structure to design bisubstrate ligands to bind to both the DXP and NADPH sites. Such compounds would be expected to demonstrate improved whole cell activity due to increased lipophilicity. Two series of compounds were designed and synthesized. Compounds from both series inhibited Mtb Dxr. The most potent compound (8) has an IC50 of 17.8 µM. Analysis shows 8 binds to Mtb Dxr via a novel, non-bisubstrate mechanism. Further, the diethyl ester of 8 inhibits Mtb growth making this class of compounds interesting lead molecules in the search for new antitubercular agents.
PMCID: PMC3731163  PMID: 23914289
17.  A sugar phosphatase regulates the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway in malaria parasites 
Nature communications  2014;5:4467.
Isoprenoid biosynthesis through the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway generates commercially important products and is a target for antimicrobial drug development. MEP pathway regulation is poorly understood in microorganisms. We employ a forward genetics approach to understand MEP pathway regulation in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The antimalarial fosmidomycin inhibits the MEP pathway enzyme deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR). Fosmidomycin-resistant P. falciparum are enriched for changes in the PF3D7_1033400 locus (hereafter referred to as PfHAD1), encoding a homologue of haloacid dehalogenase (HAD)-like sugar phosphatases. We describe the structural basis for loss-of-function PfHAD1 alleles and find that PfHAD1 dephosphorylates a variety of sugar phosphates, including glycolytic intermediates. Loss of PfHAD1 is required for fosmidomycin resistance. Parasites lacking PfHAD1 have increased MEP pathway metabolites, particularly the DXR substrate, deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate. PfHAD1 therefore controls substrate availability to the MEP pathway. Because PfHAD1 has homologs in plants and bacteria, other HAD proteins may be MEP pathway regulators.
PMCID: PMC4112465  PMID: 25058848
18.  Functional genetic analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase gene 
Novel antimalarial drugs are urgently needed to treat severe malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. Isoprenoid biosynthesis is a promising target pathway, since the biosynthetic route in Plasmodia is biochemically distinct from the mevalonate pathway in humans. The small molecule fosmidomycin is an inhibitor of the enzyme responsible for the first dedicated step in isoprenoid biosynthesis, deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR). However, the antimalarial effects of fosmidomycin might not be specific to DXR inhibition and further validation of DXR is warranted. We present the first functional genetic validation of Plasmodium falciparum DXR (PF14_0641). Using a single cross-over strategy, we show that plasmid integration occurs at the DXR locus but only when DXR gene function is preserved, but not when integration disrupts gene function. These data indicate that DXR is required for intraerythrocytic development of Plasmodium falciparum.
PMCID: PMC2814890  PMID: 20018214
Malaria; Isoprenoid biosynthesis; drug targets
19.  2C-Methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate enhances and sustains cyclodiphosphate synthase IspF activity 
ACS chemical biology  2012;7(10):1702-1710.
There is significant progress toward understanding catalysis throughout the essential MEP pathway to isoprenoids in human pathogens; however, little is known about pathway regulation. The present study begins by testing the hypothesis that isoprenoid biosynthesis is regulated via feedback inhibition of the fifth enzyme cyclodiphosphate IspF by downstream isoprenoid diphosphates. Here, we demonstrate recombinant E. coli IspF is not inhibited by downstream metabolites and isopentenyl diphosphate (IDP), dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMADP), geranyl diphosphate (GDP) and farnesyl diphosphate (FDP) under standard assay conditions. However, 2C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP), the product of reductoisomerase IspC and first committed MEP pathway intermediate, activates and sustains this enhanced IspF activity, and the IspF-MEP complex is inhibited by FDP. We further show that the methylerythritol scaffold itself, which is unique to this pathway, drives the activation and stabilization of active IspF. Our results suggest a novel feed-forward regulatory mechanism for 2Cmethyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MEcDP) production and support an isoprenoid biosynthesis regulatory mechanism via feedback inhibition of the IspF-MEP complex by FDP. The results have important implications for development of inhibitors against the IspF-MEP complex, which may be the physiologically relevant form of the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3477264  PMID: 22839733
cyclodiphosphate synthase; IspF; methylerythritol phosphate; MEP pathway regulation
20.  A Whole-Cell Phenotypic Screening Platform for Identifying Methylerythritol Phosphate Pathway-Selective Inhibitors as Novel Antibacterial Agents 
Isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for survival of all living organisms. More than 50,000 unique isoprenoids occur naturally, with each constructed from two simple five-carbon precursors: isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Two pathways for the biosynthesis of IPP and DMAPP are found in nature. Humans exclusively use the mevalonate (MVA) pathway, while most bacteria, including all Gram-negative and many Gram-positive species, use the unrelated methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway. Here we report the development of a novel, whole-cell phenotypic screening platform to identify compounds that selectively inhibit the MEP pathway. Strains of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium were engineered to have separately inducible MEP (native) and MVA (nonnative) pathways. These strains, RMC26 and CT31-7d, were then used to differentiate MVA pathway- and MEP pathway-specific perturbation. Compounds that inhibit MEP pathway-dependent bacterial growth but leave MVA-dependent growth unaffected represent MEP pathway-selective antibacterials. This screening platform offers three significant results. First, the compound is antibacterial and is therefore cell permeant, enabling access to the intracellular target. Second, the compound inhibits one or more MEP pathway enzymes. Third, the MVA pathway is unaffected, suggesting selectivity for targeting the bacterial versus host pathway. The cell lines also display increased sensitivity to two reported MEP pathway-specific inhibitors, further biasing the platform toward inhibitors selective for the MEP pathway. We demonstrate development of a robust, high-throughput screening platform that combines phenotypic and target-based screening that can identify MEP pathway-selective antibacterials simply by monitoring optical density as the readout for cell growth/inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3421842  PMID: 22777049
21.  A Secondary Kinetic Isotope Effect Study of the 1-Deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate Reductoisomerase-catalyzed Reaction: Evidence for a Retroaldol-Aldol Rearrangement 
1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) reductoisomerase (DXR, also known as methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) synthase) is a NADPH-dependent enzyme, which catalyzes the conversion of DXP to MEP in the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprene biosynthesis. Two mechanisms have been proposed for the DXR-catalyzed reaction. In the α-ketol rearrangement mechanism, the reaction begins with deprotonation of the C-3 hydroxyl group followed by a 1,2-migration to give methylerythrose phosphate, which is then reduced to MEP by NADPH. In the retroaldol/aldol rearrangement mechanism, DXR first cleaves the C3-C4 bond of DXP in a retroaldol manner to generate a three-carbon and a two-carbon phosphate bimolecular intermediate. These two species are then reunited by an aldol reaction to form a new C-C bond, yielding an aldehyde intermediate. Subsequent reduction by NADPH affords MEP. To differentiate these mechanisms, we have prepared [3-2H]- and [4-2H]-DXP and carried out a competitive secondary kinetic isotope effect (KIE) study of the DXR reaction. The normal 2° KIEs observed for [3-2H]- and [4-2H]-DXP provide compelling evidence supporting a retroaldol/aldol mechanism for the rearrangement catalyzed by DXR, with the rate-limiting step being cleavage of the C3-C4 bond of DXP.
PMCID: PMC2650392  PMID: 19159292
22.  Isoprenoid Biosynthesis in Synechocystis sp. Strain PCC6803 Is Stimulated by Compounds of the Pentose Phosphate Cycle but Not by Pyruvate or Deoxyxylulose-5-Phosphate 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(18):5045-5051.
The photosynthetic cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803 possesses homologs of known genes of the non-mevalonate 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate (MEP) pathway for synthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Isoprenoid biosynthesis in extracts of this cyanobacterium, measured by incorporation of radiolabeled IPP, was not stimulated by pyruvate, an initial substrate of the MEP pathway in Escherichia coli, or by deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate, the first pathway intermediate in E. coli. However, high rates of IPP incorporation were obtained with addition of dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (GA3P), as well as a variety of pentose phosphate cycle compounds. Fosmidomycin (at 1 μM and 1 mM), an inhibitor of deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase, did not significantly inhibit phototrophic growth of the cyanobacterium, nor did it affect [14C]IPP incorporation stimulated by DHAP plus GA3P. To date, it has not been possible to unequivocally demonstrate IPP isomerase activity in this cyanobacterium. The combined results suggest that the MEP pathway, as described for E. coli, is not the primary path by which isoprenoids are synthesized under photosynthetic conditions in Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803. Our data support alternative routes of entry of pentose phosphate cycle substrates derived from photosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC135332  PMID: 12193620
23.  Inhibition of 1-Deoxy-D-Xylulose-5-Phosphate Reductoisomerase by Lipophilic Phosphonates: SAR, QSAR and Crystallographic Studies 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(13):4721-4734.
1-Deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) is a novel target for developing new antibacterial (including anti-tuberculosis) and antimalaria drugs. 41 lipophilic phosphonates, representing a new class of DXR inhibitors, were synthesized, among which 5-phenylpyridin-2-ylmethylphosphonic acid possesses the most activity against E. coli DXR (EcDXR) with a Ki of 420 nM. Structure activity relationships (SAR) are discussed, which can be rationalized using our EcDXR:inhibitor structures, and a predictive quantitative SAR (QSAR) model is also developed. Since inhibition studies of DXR from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MtDXR) have not been well performed, 48 EcDXR inhibitors with a broad chemical diversity were found, however, to generally exhibit considerably reduced activity against MtDXR. The crystal structure of a MtDXR:inhibitor complex reveals the flexible loop containing the residues 198–208 has no strong interactions with the 3,4-dichlorophenyl group of the inhibitor, representing a structural basis for the reduced activity. Overall, these results provide implications in the future design and development of potent DXR inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3601441  PMID: 21561155
24.  Biosynthesis of β-carotene in engineered E. coli using the MEP and MVA pathways 
Microbial Cell Factories  2014;13(1):160.
β-carotene is a carotenoid compound that has been widely used not only in the industrial production of pharmaceuticals but also as nutraceuticals, animal feed additives, functional cosmetics, and food colorants. Currently, more than 90% of commercial β-carotene is produced by chemical synthesis. Due to the growing public concern over food safety, the use of chemically synthesized β-carotene as food additives or functional cosmetic agents has been severely controlled in recent years. This has reignited the enthusiasm for seeking natural β-carotene in large-scale fermentative production by microorganisms.
To increase β-carotene production by improving the isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP) and geranyl diphospate (GPP) concentration in the cell, the optimized MEP (methylerythritol 4-phosphate) pathway containing 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate synthase (DXS) and isopentenyl pyrophosphate isomerase (FNI) from Bacillus subtilis, geranyl diphosphate synthase (GPPS2) from Abies grandis have been co-expressed in an engineered E. coli strain. To further enhance the production of β-carotene, the hybrid MVA (mevalonate) pathway has been introduced into an engineered E. coli strain, co-expressed with the optimized MEP pathway and GPPS2. The final genetically modified strain, YJM49, can accumulate 122.4±6.2 mg/L β-carotene in flask culture, approximately 113-fold and 1.7 times greater than strain YJM39, which carries the native MEP pathway, and YJM45, which harbors the MVA pathway and the native MEP pathway, respectively. Subsequently, the fermentation process was optimized to enhance β-carotene production with a maximum titer of 256.8±10.4 mg/L. Finally, the fed-batch fermentation of β-carotene was evaluated using the optimized culture conditions. After induction for 56 h, the final engineered strain YJM49 accumulated 3.2 g/L β-carotene with a volumetric productivity of 0.37 mg/(L · h · OD600) in aerobic fed-batch fermentation, and the conversion efficiency of glycerol to β-carotene (gram to gram) reached 2.76%.
In this paper, by using metabolic engineering techniques, the more efficient biosynthetic pathway of β-carotene was successfully assembled in E. coli BL21(DE3) with the optimized MEP (methylerythritol 4-phosphate) pathway, the gene for GPPS2 from Abies grandis, the hybrid MVA (mevalonate) pathway and β-carotene synthesis genes from Erwinia herbicola.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-014-0160-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4239400  PMID: 25403509
β-carotene; MEP pathway; MVA pathway; E. coli
25.  Kinetic Characterization and Allosteric Inhibition of the Yersinia pestis 1-Deoxy-D-Xylulose 5-Phosphate Reductoisomerase (MEP Synthase) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e106243.
The methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway found in many bacteria governs the synthesis of isoprenoids, which are crucial lipid precursors for vital cell components such as ubiquinone. Because mammals synthesize isoprenoids via an alternate pathway, the bacterial MEP pathway is an attractive target for novel antibiotic development, necessitated by emerging antibiotic resistance as well as biodefense concerns. The first committed step in the MEP pathway is the reduction and isomerization of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate (DXP) to methylerythritol phosphate (MEP), catalyzed by MEP synthase. To facilitate drug development, we cloned, expressed, purified, and characterized MEP synthase from Yersinia pestis. Enzyme assays indicate apparent kinetic constants of KMDXP = 252 µM and KMNADPH = 13 µM, IC50 values for fosmidomycin and FR900098 of 710 nM and 231 nM respectively, and Ki values for fosmidomycin and FR900098 of 251 nM and 101 nM respectively. To ascertain if the Y. pestis MEP synthase was amenable to a high-throughput screening campaign, the Z-factor was determined (0.9) then the purified enzyme was screened against a pilot scale library containing rationally designed fosmidomycin analogs and natural product extracts. Several hit molecules were obtained, most notably a natural product allosteric affector of MEP synthase and a rationally designed bisubstrate derivative of FR900098 (able to associate with both the NADPH and DXP binding sites in MEP synthase). It is particularly noteworthy that allosteric regulation of MEP synthase has not been described previously. Thus, our discovery implicates an alternative site (and new chemical space) for rational drug development.
PMCID: PMC4149570  PMID: 25171339

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