Dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) catalyzes the formation of dihydropteroate and Mg-pyrophosphate from 6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropterin diphosphate and para-aminobenzoic acid. The Bacillus anthracis DHPS is intrinsically resistant to sulfonamides. However, using a radioassay that monitors the dihydropteroate product, the enzyme was inhibited by the same sulfonamides. A continuous spectrophotometric assay for measuring the enzymatic activity of DHPS was developed and used to examine the effects of sulfonamides on the enzyme. The new assay couples the production of MgPPi to the pyrophosphate-dependent phosphofructokinase/aldolase/triose isomerase/α-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase reactions and monitoring the disappearance of NADH at 340 nm. The coupled enzyme assay demonstrates that resistance of the B. anthracis DHPS results in part from the use of the sulfonamides as alternative substrates, resulting in the formation of sulfonamide-pterin adducts, and not necessarily due to an inability to bind them.
The sulfonamide antibiotics inhibit dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), a key enzyme in the folate pathway of bacteria and primitive eukaryotes. However, resistance mutations have severely compromised the usefulness of these drugs. Here, we report structural, computational and mutagenesis studies on the catalytic and resistance mechanisms of DHPS. By performing the enzyme-catalyzed reaction in crystalline DHPS, we have structurally characterized key intermediates along the reaction pathway. Results support an SN1 reaction mechanism via formation of a novel cationic pterin intermediate. We also show that two conserved loops generate a substructure during catalysis that creates a specific binding pocket for p-aminobenzoic acid, one of the two DHPS substrates. This substructure, together with the pterin-binding pocket, explains the roles of the conserved active site residues, and reveals how sulfonamide resistance arises.
The 6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropterin pyrophosphokinase (HPPK) and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) enzymes catalyze sequential metabolic reactions in the folate biosynthetic pathway of bacteria and lower eukaryotes. Both enzymes represent validated targets for the development of novel anti-microbial therapies. We report herein that the genes which encode FtHPPK and FtDHPS from the biowarfare agent Francisella tularensis are fused into a single polypeptide. The potential of simultaneously targeting both modules with pterin binding inhibitors prompted us to characterize the molecular details of the multifunctional complex. Our high resolution crystallographic analyses reveal the structural organization between FtHPPK and FtDHPS which are tethered together by a short linker. Additional structural analyses of substrate complexes reveal that the active sites of each module are virtually indistinguishable from those of the monofunctional enzymes. The fused bifunctional enzyme therefore represents an excellent vehicle for finding inhibitors that engage the pterin binding pockets of both modules that have entirely different architectures. To demonstrate that this approach has the potential of producing novel two-hit inhibitors of the folate pathway, we identify and structurally characterize a fragment-like molecule that simultaneously engages both active sites. Our study provides a molecular framework to study the enzyme mechanisms of HPPK and DHPS, and to design novel and much needed therapeutic compounds to treat infectious diseases.
Isoprinosine has been reported to decrease progression to AIDS, primarily by preventing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients, but the mechanism of action is unknown. para-Acetamidobenzoic acid (PAcBA), one component of isoprinosine, is structurally related to para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), a precursor of de novo folate synthesis. This pathway is known to be important for P. carinii because sulfonamides, which are effective anti-P. carinii agents, inhibit incorporation of PABA into folate precursors by the enzyme dihydropteroate synthetase (DHPS). Inhibition of P. carinii DHPS by PAcBA was investigated by using two assays. In short-term cultures of P. carinii from rats, [3H]PABA incorporation into reduced folates was inhibited by both isoprinosine (mean +/- standard error 50% inhibitory concentration [IC50], 20 +/- 8.4 microM) and PAcBA free acid (IC50, 240 +/- 100 microM); a soluble PAcBA salt was more potent than PAcBA free acid alone (IC50, 29 +/- 48 microM). The activity of PAcBA free acid was confirmed in a cell-free DHPS inhibition assay (IC50, 120 +/- 120 microM). Inosine and dimethylaminopropanol, two other components of isoprinosine, were poor inhibitors of PABA incorporation (IC50, > 1,000 microM). PAcBA free acid also showed activity in inhibiting the DHPS of Toxoplasma gondii, but was a poor inhibitor of the DHPSs of Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In a rat model of PCP, the PAcBA salt administered intraperitoneally demonstrated no activity against established PCP either alone or when used in combination with trimethoprim; the lack of efficacy in this model may be due to the rapid metabolism of the drug. Prevention of PCP by PaCBA through inhibition of P. carinii DHPS may explain the activity of isoprinosine in decreasing the progression to AIDS in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients.
Dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) mutations in Pneumocystis jiroveci have been associated epidemiologically with resistance to sulfamethoxazole (SMX). Since P. jiroveci cannot be cultured, inherent drug resistance cannot be measured. This study explores the effects of these mutations in a tractable model organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Based on the sequence conservation between the DHPS enzymes of P. jiroveci and S. cerevisiae, together with the structural conservation of the three known DHPS structures, DHPS substitutions commonly observed in P. jiroveci were reverse engineered into the S. cerevisiae DHPS. Those mutations, T597A and P599S, can occur singly but are most commonly found together and are associated with SMX treatment failure. Mutations encoding the corresponding changes in the S. cerevisiae dhps were made in a yeast centromere vector, p414FYC, which encodes the native yeast DHPS as part of a trifunctional protein that also includes the two enzymes upstream of DHPS in the folic acid synthesis pathway, dihydroneopterin aldolase and 2-amino-4-hydroxymethyl dihydropteridine pyrophosphokinase. A yeast strain with dhps deleted was employed as the host strain, and transformants having DHPS activity were recovered. Mutants having both T597 and P599 substitutions had a requirement for p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), consistent with resistance being associated with altered substrate binding. These mutants could be adapted for growth in the absence of PABA, which coincided with increased sulfa drug resistance. Upregulated PABA synthesis was thus implicated as a mechanism for sulfa drug resistance for mutants having two DHPS substitutions.
Sulfonamide resistance in recent isolates of Streptococcus pyogenes was found to be associated with alterations of the chromosomally encoded dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS). There were 111 different nucleotides (13.8%) in the genes found in susceptible and resistant isolates, respectively, resulting in 30 amino acid changes (11.3%). These substantial changes suggested the possibility of a foreign origin of the resistance gene, in parallel to what has already been found for sulfonamide resistance in Neisseria meningitidis. The gene encoding DHPS was linked to at least three other genes encoding enzymes of the folate pathway. These genes were in the order GTP cyclohydrolase, dihydropteroate synthase, dihydroneopterin aldolase, and hydroxymethyldihydropterin pyrophosphokinase. The nucleotide differences in genes from resistant and susceptible strains extended from the beginning of the GTP cyclohydrolase gene to the end of the gene encoding DHPS, an additional indication for gene transfer in the development of resistance. Kinetic measurements established different affinities for sulfathiazole for DHPS enzymes isolated from resistant and susceptible strains.
Dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) is the target of the sulfonamide class of antibiotics and has been a validated antibacterial drug target for nearly 70 years. The sulfonamides target the p-aminobenzoic acid (pABA) binding site of DHPS and interfere with folate biosynthesis and ultimately prevent bacterial replication. However, widespread bacterial resistance to these drugs has severely limited their effectiveness. This study explores the second and more highly conserved pterin binding site of DHPS as an alternative approach to developing novel antibiotics that avoid resistance. In this study, five commonly-used docking programs, FlexX, Surflex, Glide, GOLD, and DOCK, and nine scoring functions, were evaluated for their ability to rank-order potential lead compounds for an extensive virtual screening study of the pterin binding site of B. anthracis DHPS. Their performance in ligand docking and scoring was judged by their ability to reproduce a known inhibitor conformation and to efficiently detect known active compounds seeded into three separate decoy sets. Two other metrics were used to assess performance; enrichment at 1% and 2%, and Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves. The effectiveness of post-docking relaxation prior to rescoring and consensus scoring were also evaluated. Finally, we have developed a straightforward statistical method of including the inhibition constants of the known active compounds when analyzing enrichment results to more accurately assess scoring performance, which we call the ‘sum of the sum of log rank’ or SSLR. Of the docking and scoring functions evaluated, Surflex with Surflex-Score and Glide with GlideScore were the best overall performers for use in virtual screening against the DHPS target, with neither combination showing statistically significant superiority over the other in enrichment studies or pose selection. Post-docking ligand relaxation and consensus scoring did not improve overall enrichment.
As in centuries past, the main weapon against human malaria infections continues to be intervention with drugs, despite the widespread and increasing frequency of parasite populations that are resistant to one or more of the available compounds. This is a particular problem with the lethal species of parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which claims some two million lives per year as well as causing enormous social and economic problems. Amongst the antimalarial drugs currently in clinical use, the antifolates have the best defined molecular targets, namely the enzymes dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), which function in the folate metabolic pathway. The products of this pathway, reduced folate cofactors, are essential for DNA synthesis and the metabolism of certain amino acids. Moreover, their formation and interconversions involve a number of other enzymes that have not as yet been exploited as drug targets. Antifolates are of major importance as they currently represent the only inexpensive regime for combating chloroquine-resistant malaria, and are now first-line drugs in a number of African countries. Aspects of our understanding of this pathway and antifolate drug resistance are reviewed here, with a particular emphasis on approaches to analysing the details of, and balance between, folate biosynthesis by the parasite and salvage of pre-formed folate from exogenous sources.
Antifolate drugs; Drug resistance; Folate metabolism; Folate salvage; Gene disruption; Metabolic labelling
Dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) is a key enzyme in bacterial folate synthesis and the target of the sulfonamide class of antibacterials. Resistance and toxicities associated with sulfonamides have led to a decrease in their clinical use. Compounds that bind to the pterin binding site of DHPS, as opposed to the p-amino benzoic acid (pABA) binding site targeted by the sulfonamide agents, are anticipated to bypass sulfonamide resistance. To identify such inhibitors and map the pterin binding pocket, we have performed virtual screening, synthetic, and structural studies using Bacillus anthracis DHPS. Several compounds with inhibitory activity have been identified, and crystal structures have been determined that show how the compounds engage the pterin site. The structural studies identify the key binding elements and have been used to generate a structure-activity based pharmacophore map that will facilitate the development of the next generation of DHPS inhibitors which specifically target the pterin site.
Pneumocystis jirovecii is a major opportunistic pathogen that causes Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) and results in a high degree of mortality in immunocompromised individuals. The drug of choice for PCP is typically sulfamethoxazole (SMX) or dapsone in conjunction with trimethoprim. Drug treatment failure and sulfa drug resistance have been implicated epidemiologically with point mutations in dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) of P. jirovecii. P. jirovecii cannot be cultured in vitro; however, heterologous complementation of the P. jirovecii trifunctional folic acid synthesis (PjFAS) genes with an E. coli DHPS-disrupted strain was recently achieved. This enabled the evaluation of SMX resistance conferred by DHPS mutations. In this study, we sought to determine whether DHPS mutations conferred sulfa drug cross-resistance to 15 commonly available sulfa drugs. It was established that the presence of amino acid substitutions (T517A or P519S) in the DHPS domain of PjFAS led to cross-resistance against most sulfa drugs evaluated. The presence of both mutations led to increased sulfa drug resistance, suggesting cooperativity and the incremental evolution of sulfa drug resistance. Two sulfa drugs (sulfachloropyridazine [SCP] and sulfamethoxypyridazine [SMP]) that had a higher inhibitory potential than SMX were identified. In addition, SCP, SMP, and sulfadiazine (SDZ) were found to be capable of inhibiting the clinically observed drug-resistant mutants. We propose that SCP, SMP, and SDZ should be considered for clinical evaluation against PCP or for future development of novel sulfa drug compounds.
Sulfonamide resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae is due to changes in the chromosomal folP (sulA) gene coding for dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS). The first reported laboratory-selected sulfonamide-resistant S. pneumoniae isolate had a 6-bp repetition, the sul-d mutation, leading to a repetition of the amino acids Ile66 and Glu67 in the gene product DHPS. More recently, clinical isolates showing this and other repetitions have been reported. WA-5, a clinical isolate from Washington State, contains a 6-bp repetition in the folP gene, identical to the sul-d mutation. The repetition was deleted by site-directed mutagenesis. Enzyme kinetic measurements showed that the deletion was associated with a 35-fold difference in Ki for sulfathiazole but changed the Km for p-aminobenzoic acid only 2.5-fold and did not significantly change the Km for 2-amino-4-hydroxy-6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropteridine pyrophosphate. The enzyme characteristics of the deletion variant were identical to those of DHPS from a sulfonamide-susceptible strain. DHPS from clinical isolates with repetitions of Ser61 had very similar enzyme characteristics to the DHPS from WA-5. The results confirm that the repetitions are sufficient for development of a resistant enzyme and suggest that the fitness cost to the organism of developing resistance may be very low.
Tetrahydrofolate (vitamin B9) and its folate derivatives are essential cofactors in one-carbon (C1) transfer reactions and absolutely required for the synthesis of a variety of different compounds including methionine and purines. Most plants, microbial eukaryotes, and prokaryotes synthesize folate de novo. We have characterized an important enzyme in this pathway, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae FOL1 gene. Expression of the budding yeast gene FOL1 in Escherichia coli identified the folate biosynthetic enzyme activities dihydroneopterin aldolase (DHNA), 7,8-dihydro-6-hydroxymethylpterin-pyrophosphokinase (HPPK), and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS). All three enzyme activities were also detected in wild-type yeast strains, whereas fol1Δ deletion strains only showed background activities, thus demonstrating that Fol1p catalyzes three sequential steps of the tetrahydrofolate biosynthetic pathway and thus is the central enzyme of this pathway, which starting from GTP consists of seven enzymatic reactions in total. Fol1p is exclusively localized to mitochondria as shown by fluorescence microscopy and immune electronmicroscopy. FOL1 is an essential gene and the nongrowth phenotype of the fol1 deletion leads to a recessive auxotrophy for folinic acid (5′-formyltetrahydrofolate). Growth of the fol1Δ deletion strain on folinic acid–supplemented rich media induced a dimorphic switch with haploid invasive and filamentous pseudohyphal growth in the presence of glucose and ammonium, which are known suppressors of filamentous and invasive growth. The invasive growth phenotype induced by the depletion of C1 carrier is dependent on the transcription factor Ste12p and the flocullin/adhesin Flo11p, whereas the filamentation phenotype is independent of Ste12p, Tec1p, Phd1p, and Flo11p, suggesting other signaling pathways as well as other adhesion proteins.
The activities of the bifunctional folate pathway enzyme dihydrofolate synthase–folylpolyglutamate synthase from Plasmodium falciparum are characterised with respect to their kinetics, substrate specificities and responses to folate analogue inhibitors.
Unusually for a eukaryote, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum expresses dihydrofolate synthase (DHFS) and folylpolyglutamate synthase (FPGS) as a single bifunctional protein. The two activities contribute to the essential pathway of folate biosynthesis and modification. The DHFS activity of recombinant PfDHFS–FPGS exhibited non-standard kinetics at high co-substrate (glutamate and ATP) concentrations, being partially inhibited by increasing concentrations of its principal substrate, dihydropteroate (DHP). Binding of DHP to the catalytic and inhibitory sites exhibited dissociation constants of 0.50 μM and 1.25 μM, respectively. DHFS activity measured under lower co-substrate concentrations, where data fitted the Michaelis–Menten equation, yielded apparent Km values of 0.88 μM for DHP, 22.8 μM for ATP and 5.97 μM for glutamate. Of the substrates tested in FPGS assays, only tetrahydrofolate (THF) was efficiently converted to polyglutamylated forms, exhibiting standard kinetics with an apparent Km of 0.96 μM; dihydrofolate, folate and the folate analogue methotrexate (MTX) were negligibly processed, emphasising the importance of the oxidation state of the pterin moiety. Moreover, MTX inhibited neither DHFS nor FPGS, even at high concentrations. Conversely, two phosphinate analogues of 7,8-dihydrofolate that mimic tetrahedral intermediates formed during DHFS- and FPGS-catalysed glutamylation were powerfully inhibitory. The Ki value of an aryl phosphinate analogue against DHFS was 0.14 μM and for an alkyl phosphinate against FPGS 0.091 μM, with each inhibitor showing a high degree of specificity. This, combined with the absence of DHFS activity in humans, suggests PfDHFS–FPGS might represent a potential new drug target in the previously validated folate pathway of P. falciparum.
Antifolate inhibitor studies; Biphasic kinetics; Folate metabolism; Methotrexate; Phosphinate analogues of folate; Substrate specificity; DHF, dihydrofolate; DHFR, dihydrofolate reductase; DHFS, dihydrofolate synthase; DHP, dihydropteroate; DHPS, dihydropteroate synthase; DTT, dithiothreitol; FPGS, folylpolyglutamate synthase; GTPCH, GTP cyclohydrolase I; HPPK, hydroxymethyldihydropterin pyrophosphokinase; MTX, methotrexate; pAB, para-aminobenzoate; PTPS, pyruvoyltetrahydropterin synthase III; PYR, pyrimethamine; SDX, sulfadoxine; THF, tetrahydrofolate
Among spontaneous mutants of Escherichia coli selected for resistance against sulfonamides, thermosensitive strains were found. These were shown to possess a changed dihydropteroate synthase (EC 126.96.36.199), which had a substantially higher Km value for its normal substrate, p-aminobenzoic acid, and an about 150-fold higher Km for sulfonamides. The mutationally changed dihydropteroate synthase was found to be thermosensitive by in vitro assays. The thermosensitivity was used as an enzyme marker to demonstrate the complex formation between 2-amino-4-hydroxy-6-pyrophosphorylmethyl pteridine and sulfonamides by partially purified dihydropteroate synthase. The formation of folate from 2-amino-4-hydroxy-6-pyrophosphorylmethyl pteridine and p-aminobenzoylglutamic acid by dihydropteroate synthase was found to be very sensitive to inhibition by sulfonamides and very inefficient with the mutationally changed enzyme.
The enzymes 7,8-dihydroxymethylpterin-pyrophosphokinase (HPPK) and 7,8-dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), which act sequentially in the folate pathway, were purified to homogeneity from crude extracts of Escherichia coli MC4100. The enzymes represent less than 0.01% of the total soluble protein. HPPK was purified greater than 10,000-fold; the native enzyme appears to be a monomer with a molecular mass of 25 kDa and a pI of 5.2. DHPS was purified greater than 7,000-fold; the native enzyme has an apparent molecular mass of 52 to 54 kDa and is composed of two identical 30-kDa subunits. The amino-terminal sequences for both enzymes have been determined.
Parasite dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) are known target enzymes of antifolate drugs used for the treatment and prophylaxis of persons with malaria. We sequenced the Plasmodium vivax dihydrofolate reductase (pvdhfr) and dihydropteroate synthase (pvdhps) genes to examine the prevalence and extent of point mutations in isolates from malaria-endemic countries. Double mutations (S58R and S117N) or quadruple mutations (F57L/I, S58R, T61M, and S117T) in the pvdhfr gene were found in isolates from Thailand (96.4%) and Myanmar (71.4%), but in only one isolate (1.0%) from Korea, where sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine has never been used. The pvdhfr point mutations correlated strongly with the pvdhps point mutations and ranged from single to triple mutations (S382A, A383G, and A553G), among isolates from Thailand, Myanmar, and Korea. These findings suggests that the prevalence of mutations in pvdhfr and pvdhps in P. vivax isolates from different malaria-endemic countries is associated with selection pressure imposed by sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine.
Isolates of Pneumocystis jiroveci from sulfa-exposed and nonexposed patients from London, United Kingdom, and Harare, Zimbabwe, were genotyped. At the dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) locus, there was evidence of selection pressure from sulfa drug exposure, and reversal of DHPS genotype ratios occurred when selection pressure was absent or was removed.
Most drugs used for prevention and treatment of Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia target enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of folic acid, i.e., dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Emergence of P. jirovecii drug resistance has been suggested by the association between failure of prophylaxis with sulfa drugs and mutations in DHPS. However, data on the occurrence of mutations in DHFR, the target of trimethoprim and pyrimethamine, are scarce. We examined polymorphisms in P. jirovecii DHFR from 33 patients diagnosed with P. jirovecii pneumonia who were receiving prophylaxis with a DHFR inhibitor (n = 15), prophylaxis without a DHFR inhibitor (n = 11), or no prophylaxis (n = 7). Compared to the wild-type sequence present in GenBank, 19 DHFR nucleotide substitution sites were found in 18 patients with 3 synonymous and 16 nonsynonymous mutations. Of 16 amino acid changes, 6 were located in positions conserved among distant organisms, and five of these six positions are probably involved in the putative active sites of the enzyme. Patients with failure of prophylaxis, including a DHFR inhibitor, were more likely to harbor nonsynonymous DHFR mutations than those who did not receive such prophylaxis (9 of 15 patients versus 2 of 18; P = 0.008). Analysis of the rate of nonsynonymous versus synonymous mutations was consistent with selection of amino acid substitutions in patients with failure of prophylaxis including a DHFR inhibitor. The results suggest that P. jirovecii populations may evolve under selective pressure from DHFR inhibitors, in particular pyrimethamine, and that DHFR mutations may contribute to P. jirovecii drug resistance.
We examined mutations in the dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) genes of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. hominis (P. carinii) strains isolated from 24 patients with P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) in Japan. DHPS mutations were identified at amino acid positions 55 and/or 57 in isolates from 6 (25.0%) of 24 patients. The underlying diseases for these six patients were human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection (n = 4) or malignant lymphoma (n = 2). This frequency was almost the same as those reported in Denmark and the United States. None of the six patients whose isolates had DHPS mutations were recently exposed to sulfa drugs before they developed the current episode of PCP, suggesting that DHPS mutations not only are selected by the pressure of sulfa agents but may be incidentally acquired. Co-trimoxazole treatment failed more frequently in patients whose isolates had DHPS mutations than in those whose isolates had wild-type DHPS (n = 4 [100%] versus n = 2 [11.1%]; P = 0.002). Our results thus suggest that DHPS mutations may contribute to failures of co-trimoxazole treatment for PCP.
The combination of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is used as a second line of therapy for the treatment of uncomplicated chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Resistance to SP arises due to certain point mutations in the genes for the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and dihydropteroate synthetase (DHPS) enzymes of the parasite. We have analyzed these mutations in 312 field isolates of P. falciparum collected from different parts of India to assess the effects of drug pressure. The rate of mutation in the gene for DHFR was found to be higher than that in the gene for DHPS, although the latter had mutations in more alleles. There was a temporal rise in the number of isolates with double dhfr mutations and single dhps mutations, resulting in an increased total number of mutations in the loci for DHFR and DHPS combined over a 5-year period. During these 5 years, the number of isolates with drug-sensitive genotypes decreased and the number of isolates with drug-resistant genotypes (double DHFR mutations and a single DHPS mutation) increased significantly. The number of isolates with the triple mutations in each of the genes for the two enzymes (for a total of six mutations), however, remained very low, coinciding with the very low rate of SP treatment failure in the country. There was a regional bias in the mutation rate, as isolates from the northeastern region (the state of Assam) showed higher rates of mutation and more complex genotypes than isolates from the other regions. It was concluded that even though SP is prescribed as a second line of treatment in India, the mutations associated with SP resistance continue to be progressively increasing.
The Escherichia coli gene coding for dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) has been cloned and sequenced. The protein has 282 amino acids and a compositional molecular mass of 30,314 daltons. Increased expression of the enzyme was realized by using a T7 expression system. The enzyme was purified and crystallized. A temperature-sensitive mutant was isolated and found to express a DHPS with a lower specific activity and lower affinities for para-aminobenzoic acid and sulfathiazole. The allele had a point mutation that changed a phenylalanine codon to a leucine codon, and the mutation was in a codon that is conserved among published DHPS sequences.
Failure of sulfa or sulfone prophylaxis is associated with mutations in Pneumocystis carinii gene coding for dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS). The DHPS genotype was analyzed in AIDS patients who had two separate episodes of P. carinii pneumonia. The results suggest that DHPS mutations can be selected de novo within patients by the pressure of a sulfa or sulfone drug.
Pneumocystis carinii; pneumonia; fungal typing; drug resistance; drug pressure; mutation; dihydropteroate synthase; AIDS; dispatch
Understanding the spatial clustering of Plasmodium falciparum populations can assist efforts to contain drug-resistant parasites and maintain the efficacy of future drugs. We sequenced single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the dihydropteroate synthase gene (dhps) associated with sulfadoxine resistance and 5 microsatellite loci flanking dhps in order to investigate the genetic backgrounds, genetic relatedness, and geographic clustering of falciparum parasites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Resistant haplotypes were clustered into subpopulations: one in the northeast DRC, and the other in the balance of the DRC. Network and clonal lineage analyses of the flanking microsatellites indicate that geographically-distinct mutant dhps haplotypes derive from separate lineages. The DRC is therefore a watershed for haplotypes associated with sulfadoxine resistance. Given the importance of central Africa as a corridor for the spread of antimalarial resistance, the identification of the mechanisms of this transit can inform future policies to contain drug-resistant parasite strains.
Dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) is the classical target of the sulfonamide class of antimicrobial agents, whose use has been limited by widespread resistance and pharmacological side effects. We have initiated a structure-based drug design approach for the development of novel DHPS inhibitors that bind to the highly conserved and structured pterin sub-site rather than to the adjacent p-amino benzoic acid binding pocket that is targeted by the sulfonamide class of antibiotics. To facilitate these studies, a robust pterin site-specific fluorescence polarization (FP) assay has been developed and is discussed herein. These studies include the design, synthesis and characterization of two fluorescent probes, and the development and validation of a rapid DHPS FP assay. This assay has excellent DMSO tolerance and is highly reproducible as evidenced by a high Z’ factor. This assay offers significant advantages over traditional radiometric or phosphate release assays against this target, and is suitable for site-specific high throughput and fragment-based screening studies.
Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PCP) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients. Sulfa-containing drugs are used for the treatment and prophylaxis of PCP. Mutations in the P. jirovecii fas gene, which encodes dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), are associated with prior exposure to sulfa drugs, and their appearance suggests the emergence of variants with reduced sulfa susceptibility. The present study examined the prevalence of DHPS mutations in P. jirovecii strains isolated from South African patients with PCP. P. jirovecii infection was investigated by immunofluorescence microscopy and quantitative real-time PCR with respiratory specimens from 712 patients (93% of whom were >15 years of age) with suspected PCP consecutively received for the detection of P. jirovecii over 1 year. PCR amplification and sequencing of the DHPS fas gene was attempted with DNA from the P. jirovecii-positive samples. P. jirovecii infection was confirmed by immunofluorescence microscopy in 168/712 (24%) of the patients. Carriage of the fungus was revealed by real-time PCR in 17% of the patients with negative microscopy results. The P. jirovecii fas gene was successfully amplified from specimens from 151 patients and sequenced. Mutations resulting in the Thr55Ala and/or Pro57Ser amino acid substitution were detected in P. jirovecii strains from 85/151 (56%) patients. The high frequency of PCP episodes with P. jirovecii harboring DHPS mutations in South Africa indicates that populations of this fungus are evolving under the considerable selective pressure exerted by sulfa-containing antibiotics. These results, similar to previous observations of sulfa drug resistance in bacterial populations, underscore the importance of the rational use of sulfa medications either prophylactically against PCP or for the treatment of other infections.