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1.  Diaza-anthracene Antibiotics from a Freshwater-Derived Actinomycete with Selective Antibacterial Activity toward Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
ACS infectious diseases  2015;1(4):168-174.
Multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are resistant to first- and second-line drug regimens and resulted in 210,000 fatalities in 2013. In the current study, we screened a library of aquatic bacterial natural product fractions for their ability to inhibit this pathogen. A fraction from a Lake Michigan bacterium exhibited significant inhibitory activity, from which we characterized novel diazaquinomycins H and J. This antibiotic class displayed an in vitro activity profile similar or superior to clinically used anti-tuberculosis agents and maintained this potency against a panel of drug-resistant M. tuberculosis strains. Importantly, these are among the only freshwater-derived actinomycete bacterial metabolites described to date. Further in vitro profiling against a broad panel of bacteria indicated that this antibiotic class selectively targets M. tuberculosis. Additionally, in the case of this pathogen we present evidence counter to previous reports that claim the diazaquinomycins target thymidylate synthase in Gram-positive bacteria. Thus, we establish freshwater environments as potential sources for novel antibiotic leads and present the diazaquinomycins as potent and selective inhibitors of M. tuberculosis.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4648258  PMID: 26594660
natural products; Great Lakes; actinobacteria; antibiotic; diazaquinomycin; drug discovery
2.  The future for early-stage tuberculosis drug discovery 
Future microbiology  2015;10(2):217-229.
There is an urgent need for new and better drugs to treat tuberculosis due to lengthy and complex treatment regimens and a rising problem of drug resistance. Drug discovery efforts have increased over the past few years, with a larger focus on modern high-throughput screening technologies. A combination of target-based approaches, with the traditional empirical means of drug identification, has been complemented by the use of target-based phenotypic screens only recently made possibly with newer genetic tools. Using these approaches, a number of promising compound series have been discovered. However, significant problems remain in developing these into drugs. This review highlights recent advances in TB drug discovery, including an overview of screening campaigns, lessons learned and future directions.
PMCID: PMC4353566  PMID: 25689534
drug target; essential genes; high-throughput screening; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; tuberculosis drug discovery
3.  LytB1 and LytB2 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Are Not Genetically Redundant 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0135638.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis synthesises isoprenoid precursors via the MEP/DOXP pathway and at least five enzymes in the pathway (Dxs1, Dxr/IspC, IspD, IspF, and GcpE/IspG) are required for growth in vitro. We investigated the role of LytB (IspH) in M. tuberculosis; M. tuberculosis is unusual in that it has two homologs–LytB1 and LytB2. We were unable to delete the lytB2 gene unless we provided an additional copy elsewhere, demonstrating that this is the essential homolog. We expressed lytB1 from the lytB2 promoter and confirmed that this could not complement for loss of function of lytB2, despite LytB1 possessing all the previously described conserved critical residues. Interestingly the sole LytB homolog of Mycobacterium smegmatis was able to compensate for loss of LytB2 in M. tuberculosis. We tested translational fusions of LytB1 and LytB2 for functionality in M. tuberculosis, but only a fusion with 90% N-terminal LytB2 and 10% C-terminal LytB1 was functional. In order to identify the key difference between the two proteins, site directed mutagenesis was used to change LytB2 residues into their counterparts in LytB1. None of these amino acid substitutions was essential for function and all lytB2 mutant alleles were functional. In contrast, mutation of the key residues for [Fe4S4] cluster formation, as well as a catalytic residue in LytB1 did not result in functional complementation. Thus, although LytB1 and LytB2 are not genetically redundant, this is not dependent on small amino acid changes, but is likely to be a result of major overall structural differences.
PMCID: PMC4550268  PMID: 26309039
4.  Deletion of cyp125 Confers Increased Sensitivity to Azoles in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0133129.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is able to utilize cholesterol as a carbon source, and this ability is linked to its virulence in macrophages and in the mouse model of infection. The M. tuberculosis cytochrome P450 Cyp125 plays a key role in cholesterol metabolism being involved in the first steps of its degradation. Cyp125 is a cholesterol hydroxylase which is essential for cholesterol catabolism in M. bovis BCG and some strains of M. tuberculosis. We generated an unmarked, in-frame deletion of Cyp125 in M. tuberculosis H37Rv. The deletion strain was able to grow as well as wild-type in medium containing glucose as the carbon source. The Cyp125 deletion strain was more sensitive to growth inhibition by clotrimazole consistent with the ability of Cyp125 to bind azoles with high affinity. The deletion strain showed no difference in sensitivity to nitric oxide or hydrogen peroxide and was not attenuated for growth inside THP-1 human macrophage-like cells. These data suggest that the attenuation of virulence seen in operon deletion strains is not linked to the lack of Cyp125 alone.
PMCID: PMC4510303  PMID: 26197389
5.  Optimization and Evaluation of 5-Styryl-Oxathiazol-2-one Mycobacterium tuberculosis Proteasome Inhibitors as Potential Antitubercular Agents 
ChemistryOpen  2015;4(3):342-362.
This is the first report of 5-styryl-oxathiazol-2-ones as inhibitors of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) proteasome. As part of the study, the structure–activity relationship of oxathiazolones as Mtb proteasome inhibitors has been investigated. Furthermore, the prepared compounds displayed a good selectivity profile for Mtb compared to the human proteasome. The 5-styryl-oxathiazol-2-one inhibitors identified showed little activity against replicating Mtb, but were rapidly bactericidal against nonreplicating bacteria. (E)-5-(4-Chlorostyryl)-1,3,4-oxathiazol-2-one) was most effective, reducing the colony-forming units (CFU)/mL below the detection limit in only seven days at all concentrations tested. The results suggest that this new class of Mtb proteasome inhibitors has the potential to be further developed into novel antitubercular agents for synergistic combination therapies with existing drugs.
PMCID: PMC4522185  PMID: 26246997
antitubercular agents; 5-styryl-oxathiazolones; Mtb proteasome inhibitor; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; nonreplicating Mtb; rapid bactericidal activity
6.  Bayesian Models for Screening and TB Mobile for Target Inference with Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
The search for compounds active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is reliant upon high throughput screening (HTS) in whole cells. We have used Bayesian machine learning models which can predict anti-tubercular activity to filter an internal library of over 150,000 compounds prior to in vitro testing. We used this to select and test 48 compounds in vitro; 11 were active with MIC values ranging from 0.4 µM to 10.2 µM, giving a high hit rate of 22.9%. Among the hits, we identified several compounds belonging to the same series including five quinolones (including ciprofloxacin), three molecules with long aliphatic linkers and three singletons. This approach represents a rapid method to prioritize compounds for testing that can be used alongside medicinal chemistry insight and other filters to identify active molecules. Such models can significantly increase the hit rate of HTS, above the usual 1% or lower rates seen. In addition, the potential targets for the 11 molecules were predicted using TB Mobile and clustering alongside a set of over 740 molecules with known M. tuberculosis target annotations. These predictions may serve as a mechanism for prioritizing compounds for further optimization.
PMCID: PMC4394018  PMID: 24440548
Bayesian models; Collaborative Drug Discovery Tuberculosis database; function class fingerprints; Virtual Screening; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
7.  The 4-aminopiperidine series has limited anti-tubercular and anti-staphylococcus aureus activity 
Tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the leading cause of death from a bacterial infection. The 4-aminopiperidine (PIP) series has been reported as having anti-bacterial activity against M. tuberculosis. We explored this series for its potential to inhibit aerobic growth of M. tuberculosis. We examined substitution at the N-1 position and C-4 position of the piperidine and modifications of the piperidine moiety systematically to delineate structure-activity relationships influencing potency. Compounds were tested for growth-inhibitory activity against virulent M. tuberculosis. A selected set of compounds were also tested for its activity against Staphylococcus aureus.
The compound with a norbornenylmethyl substituent at the N-1 position and N-benzyl-N-phenethylamine at the C-4 position of the piperidine (1) was the only active compound with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 10 μM against M. tuberculosis. Compounds were not active against S. aureus.
We were unable to derive any other analogs with MIC < 20 μM against M. tuberculosis. Therefore we conclude that the lack of activity is a liability in this series precluding it from further development.
PMCID: PMC4336482  PMID: 25881065
4-aminopiperidine; Tuberculosis; Antimicrobial; Staphylococcus aureus
8.  Synthesis and anti-tubercular activity of 3-substituted benzo[b]thiophene-1,1-dioxides 
PeerJ  2014;2:e612.
We demonstrated that the 3-substituted benzothiophene-1,1-dioxide class of compounds are effective inhibitors of Mycobacterium tuberculosis growth under aerobic conditions. We examined substitution at the C-3 position of the benzothiophene-1,1-dioxide series systematically to delineate structure–activity relationships influencing potency and cytotoxicity. Compounds were tested for inhibitory activity against virulent M. tuberculosis and eukaryotic cells. The tetrazole substituent was most potent, with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 2.6 µM. However, cytotoxicity was noted with even more potency (Vero cell TC50 = 0.1 µM). Oxadiazoles had good anti-tubercular activity (MICs of 3–8 µM), but imidazoles, thiadiazoles and thiazoles had little activity. Cytotoxicity did not track with anti-tubercular activity, suggesting different targets or mode of action between bacterial and eukaryotic cells. However, we were unable to derive analogs without cytotoxicity; all compounds synthesized were cytotoxic (TC50 of 0.1–5 µM). We conclude that cytotoxicity is a liability in this series precluding it from further development. However, the series has potent anti-tubercular activity and future efforts towards identifying the mode of action could result in the identification of novel drug targets.
PMCID: PMC4193402  PMID: 25320680
Tuberculosis; Antimicrobial; Benzothiophene dioxide; Drug discovery; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; High throughput screening; Antibacterial
9.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis DosR is Required for Activity of the PmbtB and PmbtI Promoters under Hypoxia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107283.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis has the ability to survive for extended periods of time under conditions of low oxygen, low pH, low iron and low nutrients. The mycobactins (M. tuberculosis siderophores) play a key role in scavenging iron from the environment and are induced in response to low iron in an IdeR-regulated manner. We demonstrate that the promoters of two mycobactin gene (mbt) operons are also expressed during adaptation to low oxygen, and that this expression is dependent on the DosR regulator. Up-regulation of mbt operons induced by low iron was not DosR-dependent. DosR is a member of a two component regulatory system which responds to oxygen availability. Deletion of the DosR regulator led to increased expression of bacterioferritin and increased capacity to grow under iron depletion. These data provide a link between the mycobacterial response to two conditions likely to be encountered in vivo, low iron and low oxygen.
PMCID: PMC4161423  PMID: 25211224
10.  Advancement of Imidazo[1,2-a]pyridines with Improved Pharmacokinetics and Nanomolar Activity Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2013;4(7):675-679.
A set of fourteen imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides was synthesized and screened against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv. The minimum inhibitory concentrations of twelve of these agents were ≤ 1 μM against replicating bacteria and five compounds (9, 12, 16, 17 and 18) had MIC values ≤ 0.006 μM. Compounds 13 and 18 were screened against a panel of MDR and XDR drug resistant clinical Mtb strains with the potency of 18 surpassing that of clinical candidate PA-824 by nearly 10 fold. The in vivo pharmacokinetics of compounds 13 and 18 were evaluated in male mice by oral (PO) and intravenous (IV) routes. These results indicate that readily synthesized imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides are an exciting new class of potent, selective anti-TB agents that merit additional development opportunities.
PMCID: PMC3733398  PMID: 23930153
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides; MDR-TB; XDR-TB; pharmacokinetics
11.  Advancement of Imidazo[1,2-a]pyridines with Improved Pharmacokinetics and nM Activity vs. Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(7):675-679.
A set of 14 imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides was synthesized and screened against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv. The minimum inhibitory concentrations of 12 of these agents were ≤1 μM against replicating bacteria and 5 compounds (9, 12, 16, 17, and 18) had MIC values ≤0.006 μM. Compounds 13 and 18 were screened against a panel of MDR and XDR drug resistant clinical Mtb strains with the potency of 18 surpassing that of clinical candidate PA-824 by nearly 10-fold. The in vivo pharmacokinetics of compounds 13 and 18 were evaluated in male mice by oral (PO) and intravenous (IV) routes. These results indicate that readily synthesized imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides are an exciting new class of potent, selective anti-TB agents that merit additional development opportunities.
PMCID: PMC3733398  PMID: 23930153
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides; MDR-TB; XDR-TB; pharmacokinetics
12.  Identification of the translational start site of codon-optimized mCherry in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7:366.
Fluorescent proteins are used widely as reporter genes in many organisms. We previously codon-optimized mCherry for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and generated expression constructs with high level expression in mycobacteria with multiple uses in vitro and in vivo. However, little is known about the expression of fluorescent proteins in mycobacteria and the translational start codon for mCherry has not been experimentally determined.
We determined the translational start site for functional (fluorescent) mCherry in mycobacteria. Several potential translational start codons were identified; introduction of downstream stop codons by mutagenesis was used to determine which start codon was utilized in the bacterial cells. Fluorescent protein was expressed from a construct which would allow translation of a protein of 226 amino acids or a protein of 235 amino acids. No fluorescence was seen when a construct which could give rise to a protein of 219 amino acids was used. Similar results were obtained in mycobacteria and in Escherichia coli. Western blotting confirmed that mCherry was expressed from the constructs encoding 235 or 226 amino acids, but not from the plasmid encoding 219 amino acids. N-terminal sequencing and mass determination confirmed that the mature protein was 226 amino acids and commenced with the amino acid sequence AIIKE.
We conclude that mCherry is expressed in M. tuberculosis as a smaller protein than expected lacking the GFP-derived N-terminal sequence designed to allow efficient fusions.
PMCID: PMC4091752  PMID: 24934902
Fluorescence; Gene expression; Mycobacteria; Reporter genes
13.  Expression and characterization of soluble 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol kinase from bacterial pathogens 
Chemistry & biology  2009;16(12):1230-1239.
Many bacterial pathogens utilize the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway for biosynthesizing isoprenoid precursors, a pathway that is vital for bacterial survival and absent from human cells, providing a potential source of drug targets. However, the characterization of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol (CDP-ME) kinase (IspE) has been hindered due to a lack of enantiopure CDP-ME and difficulty in obtaining pure IspE. Here, enantiopure CDP-ME was chemically synthesized and recombinant IspE from bacterial pathogens were purified and characterized. Although gene disruption was not possible in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, IspE is essential in Mycobacterium smegmatis. The biochemical and kinetic characteristics of IspE provide the basis for development of a high throughput screen and structural characterization.
PMCID: PMC4020808  PMID: 20064433
14.  A High-Throughput Screen against Pantothenate Synthetase (PanC) Identifies 3-Biphenyl-4-Cyanopyrrole-2-Carboxylic Acids as a New Class of Inhibitor with Activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e72786.
The enzyme pantothenate synthetase, PanC, is an attractive drug target in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is essential for the in vitro growth of M. tuberculosis and for survival of the bacteria in the mouse model of infection. PanC is absent from mammals. We developed an enzyme-based assay to identify inhibitors of PanC, optimized it for high-throughput screening, and tested a large and diverse library of compounds for activity. Two compounds belonging to the same chemical class of 3-biphenyl-4- cyanopyrrole-2-carboxylic acids had activity against the purified recombinant protein, and also inhibited growth of live M. tuberculosis in manner consistent with PanC inhibition. Thus we have identified a new class of PanC inhibitors with whole cell activity that can be further developed.
PMCID: PMC3820577  PMID: 24244263
15.  Identification of New Drug Targets and Resistance Mechanisms in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75245.
Identification of new drug targets is vital for the advancement of drug discovery against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, especially given the increase of resistance worldwide to first- and second-line drugs. Because traditional target-based screening has largely proven unsuccessful for antibiotic discovery, we have developed a scalable platform for target identification in M. tuberculosis that is based on whole-cell screening, coupled with whole-genome sequencing of resistant mutants and recombineering to confirm. The method yields targets paired with whole-cell active compounds, which can serve as novel scaffolds for drug development, molecular tools for validation, and/or as ligands for co-crystallization. It may also reveal other information about mechanisms of action, such as activation or efflux. Using this method, we identified resistance-linked genes for eight compounds with anti-tubercular activity. Four of the genes have previously been shown to be essential: AspS, aspartyl-tRNA synthetase, Pks13, a polyketide synthase involved in mycolic acid biosynthesis, MmpL3, a membrane transporter, and EccB3, a component of the ESX-3 type VII secretion system. AspS and Pks13 represent novel targets in protein translation and cell-wall biosynthesis. Both MmpL3 and EccB3 are involved in membrane transport. Pks13, AspS, and EccB3 represent novel candidates not targeted by existing TB drugs, and the availability of whole-cell active inhibitors greatly increases their potential for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3781026  PMID: 24086479
16.  Identification of the likely translational start of Mycobacterium tuberculosis GyrB 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:274.
Bacterial DNA gyrase is a validated target for antibacterial chemotherapy. It consists of two subunits, GyrA and GyrB, which form an A2B2 complex in the active enzyme. Sequence alignment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis GyrB with other bacterial GyrBs predicts the presence of 40 potential additional amino acids at the GyrB N-terminus. There are discrepancies between the M. tuberculosis GyrB sequences retrieved from different databases, including sequences annotated with or without the additional 40 amino acids. This has resulted in differences in the GyrB sequence numbering that has led to the reporting of previously known fluoroquinolone-resistance mutations as novel mutations.
We have expressed M. tuberculosis GyrB with and without the extra 40 amino acids in Escherichia coli and shown that both can be produced as soluble, active proteins. Supercoiling and other assays of the two proteins show no differences, suggesting that the additional 40 amino acids have no effect on the enzyme in vitro. RT-PCR analysis of M. tuberculosis mRNA shows that transcripts that could yield both the longer and shorter protein are present. However, promoter analysis showed that only the promoter elements leading to the shorter GyrB (lacking the additional 40 amino acids) had significant activity.
We conclude that the most probable translational start codon for M. tuberculosis GyrB is GTG (Val) which results in translation of a protein of 674 amino acids (74 kDa).
PMCID: PMC3724585  PMID: 23856181
Gyrase; Topoisomerase; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
17.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis Responds to Chloride and pH as Synergistic Cues to the Immune Status of its Host Cell 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003282.
The ability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to thrive in its phagosomal niche is critical for its establishment of a chronic infection. This requires that Mtb senses and responds to intraphagosomal signals such as pH. We hypothesized that Mtb would respond to additional intraphagosomal factors that correlate with maturation. Here, we demonstrate that [Cl−] and pH correlate inversely with phagosome maturation, and identify Cl− as a novel environmental cue for Mtb. Mtb responds to Cl− and pH synergistically, in part through the activity of the two-component regulator phoPR. Following identification of promoters responsive to Cl− and pH, we generated a reporter Mtb strain that detected immune-mediated changes in the phagosomal environment during infection in a mouse model. Our study establishes Cl− and pH as linked environmental cues for Mtb, and illustrates the utility of reporter bacterial strains for the study of Mtb-host interactions in vivo.
Author Summary
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is the causative agent of tuberculosis, a disease that remains a major global health problem. To ensure its long-term survival in the host, Mtb must be able to sense and respond to changes in its immediate environment, such as the pH differences that occur in the phagosome in which it lives. Knowledge of the external signals that Mtb recognizes during infection is critical for understanding the impact of the microenvironment on Mtb pathogenesis and persistence, and how Mtb interacts with its host cell. We show here that [Cl−] correlates inversely with pH as the phagosome matures, and identify [Cl−] as a novel cue that Mtb responds to, in synergism with pH. By constructing a Mtb strain that fluorescently reports on changes in [Cl−] and pH, we find using a mouse model of infection that environmental alterations in Mtb's phagosomal home are mediated at the local level by activities of the host immune system. Our study demonstrates how a pathogen can exploit linked environmental cues during infection, and shows the value of reporter bacterial strains for Mtb-host whole animal studies.
PMCID: PMC3616970  PMID: 23592993
18.  A Dual Read-Out Assay to Evaluate the Potency of Compounds Active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60531.
Tuberculosis is a serious global health problem caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There is an urgent need for discovery and development of new treatments, but this can only be accomplished through rapid and reproducible M. tuberculosis assays designed to identify potent inhibitors. We developed an automated 96-well assay utilizing a recombinant strain of M. tuberculosis expressing a far-red fluorescent reporter to determine the activity of novel compounds; this allowed us to measure growth by monitoring both optical density and fluorescence. We determined that optical density and fluorescence were correlated with cell number during logarithmic phase growth. Fluorescence was stably maintained without antibiotic selection over 5 days, during which time cells remained actively growing. We optimized parameters for the assay, with the final format being 5 days’ growth in 96-well plates in the presence of 2% w/v DMSO. We confirmed reproducibility using rifampicin and other antibiotics. The dual detection method allows for a reproducible calculation of the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), at the same time detecting artefacts such as fluorescence quenching or compound precipitation. We used our assay to confirm anti-tubercular activity and establish the structure activity relationship (SAR) around the imidazo[1,2-a]pyridine-3-carboxamides, a promising series of M. tuberculosis inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3617142  PMID: 23593234
19.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis ClpP Proteases Are Co-transcribed but Exhibit Different Substrate Specificities 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60228.
Caseinolytic (Clp) proteases are widespread energy-dependent proteases; the functional ATP-dependent protease is comprised of multimers of proteolytic and regulatory subunits. Mycobacterium tuberculosis has two ClpP proteolytic subunits (ClpP1 and ClpP2), with both being essential for growth in vitro. ClpP1 and clpP2 are arranged in an apparent operon; we demonstrated that the two genes are co-expressed under normal growth conditions. We identified a single promoter region for the clpP1P2 operon; no promoter was detected upstream of clpP2 demonstrating that independent expression of clpP1 and clpP2 was highly unlikely. Promoter activity was not induced by heat shock or oxidative stress. We identified a regulatory region upstream of the promoter with a consensus sequence matching the ClgR regulator motif; we determined the limits of the region by mutagenesis and confirmed that positive regulation of the promoter occurs in M. tuberculosis. We developed a reporter system to monitor ClpP1 and ClpP2 enzymatic activities based on LacZ incorporating ssrAtag sequences. We showed that whilst both ClpP1 and ClpP2 degrade SsrA-tagged LacZ, ClpP2 (but not ClpP1) degrades untagged proteins. Our data suggest that the two proteolytic subunits display different substrate specificities and therefore have different, but overlapping roles in M. tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC3613350  PMID: 23560081
20.  Methionine Sulfoximine Resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Is Due to a Single Nucleotide Deletion Resulting in Increased Expression of the Major Glutamine Synthetase, GlnA1 
Microbial Drug Resistance  2011;17(3):351-355.
We investigated the effect of methionine sulfoximine (MetSox), a potent inhibitor of glutamine synthetase, on Mycobacterium tuberculosis. M. tuberculosis encodes four glutamine synthetases, of which MetSox targets the type I enzyme encoded by glnA1. Trancriptional profiling revealed that glutamate synthetase (gltB) and a type II glutamine synthetase (glnA3) were induced after exposure to MetSox. In addition, we observed a high rate (10−5) of spontaneous resistance to MetSox. All resistant strains had a single-nucleotide deletion in the 5′ region of glnA1, and Western analysis revealed that GlnA1 expression was increased in resistant as compared with sensitive strains. These data show that M. tuberculosis can respond to the effect of MetSox inhibition either by up-regulation of GlnA3 or by GlnA1. The high frequency of resistance suggests that MetSox and other compounds specifically targeting GlnA1 are not likely to become successful anti-mycobacterial agents.
PMCID: PMC3161625  PMID: 21875360
21.  Validation of the Essential ClpP Protease in Mycobacterium tuberculosis as a Novel Drug Target 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(3):663-668.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a pathogen of major global importance. Validated drug targets are required in order to develop novel therapeutics for drug-resistant strains and to shorten therapy. The Clp protease complexes provide a means for quality control of cellular proteins; the proteolytic activity of ClpP in concert with the ATPase activity of the ClpX/ClpC subunits results in degradation of misfolded or damaged proteins. Thus, the Clp system plays a major role in basic metabolism, as well as in stress responses and pathogenic mechanisms. M. tuberculosis has two ClpP proteolytic subunits. Here we demonstrate that ClpP1 is essential for viability in this organism in culture, since the gene could only be deleted from the chromosome when a second functional copy was provided. Overexpression of clpP1 had no effect on growth in aerobic culture or viability under anaerobic conditions or during nutrient starvation. In contrast, clpP2 overexpression was toxic, suggesting different roles for the two homologs. We synthesized known activators of ClpP protease activity; these acyldepsipeptides (ADEPs) were active against M. tuberculosis. ADEP activity was enhanced by the addition of efflux pump inhibitors, demonstrating that ADEPs gain access to the cell but that export occurs. Taken together, the genetic and chemical validation of ClpP as a drug target leads to new avenues for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3264079  PMID: 22123255
22.  A new in vivo model to test anti-tuberculosis drugs using fluorescence imaging 
The current method for testing new drugs against tuberculosis in vivo is the enumeration of bacteria in organs by cfu assay. Owing to the slow growth rate of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), these assays can take months to complete. Our aim was to develop a more efficient, fluorescence-based imaging assay to test new antibiotics in a mouse model using Mtb reporter strains.
A commercial IVIS Kinetic® system and a custom-built laser scanning system with fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT) capability were used to detect fluorescent Mtb in living mice and lungs ex vivo. The resulting images were analysed and the fluorescence was correlated with data from cfu assays.
We have shown that fluorescent Mtb can be visualized in the lungs of living mice at a detection limit of ∼8 × 107 cfu/lung, whilst in lungs ex vivo a detection limit of ∼2 × 105 cfu/lung was found. These numbers were comparable between the two imaging systems. Ex vivo lung fluorescence correlated to numbers of bacteria in tissue, and the effect of treatment of mice with the antibiotic moxifloxacin could be visualized and quantified after only 9 days through fluorescence measurements, and was confirmed by cfu assays.
We have developed a new and efficient method for anti-tuberculosis drug testing in vivo, based on fluorescent Mtb reporter strains. Using this method instead of, or together with, cfu assays will reduce the time required to assess the preclinical efficacy of new drugs in animal models and enhance the progress of these candidates into clinical trials against human tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC3394442  PMID: 22635525
antibiotics; drug testing; mycobacteria; optical imaging; TB
23.  The dUTPase Enzyme Is Essential in Mycobacterium smegmatis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37461.
Thymidine biosynthesis is essential in all cells. Inhibitors of the enzymes involved in this pathway (e.g. methotrexate) are thus frequently used as cytostatics. Due to its pivotal role in mycobacterial thymidylate synthesis dUTPase, which hydrolyzes dUTP into the dTTP precursor dUMP, has been suggested as a target for new antitubercular agents. All mycobacterial genomes encode dUTPase with a mycobacteria-specific surface loop absent in the human dUTPase. Using Mycobacterium smegmatis as a fast growing model for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we demonstrate that dUTPase knock-out results in lethality that can be reverted by complementation with wild-type dUTPase. Interestingly, a mutant dUTPase gene lacking the genus-specific loop was unable to complement the knock-out phenotype. We also show that deletion of the mycobacteria-specific loop has no major effect on dUTPase enzymatic properties in vitro and thus a yet to be identified loop-specific function seems to be essential within the bacterial cell context. In addition, here we demonstrated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis dUTPase is fully functional in Mycobacterium smegmatis as it rescues the lethal knock-out phenotype. Our results indicate the potential of dUTPase as a target for antitubercular drugs and identify a genus-specific surface loop on the enzyme as a selective target.
PMCID: PMC3360063  PMID: 22655049
24.  The Promoter of Rv0560c Is Induced by Salicylate and Structurally-Related Compounds in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34471.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), is a major global health threat. During infection, bacteria are believed to encounter adverse conditions such as iron depletion. Mycobacteria synthesize iron-sequestering mycobactins, which are essential for survival in the host, via the intermediate salicylate. Salicylate is a ubiquitous compound which is known to induce a mild antibiotic resistance phenotype. In M. tuberculosis salicylate highly induces the expression of Rv0560c, a putative methyltransferase. We identified and characterized the promoter and regulatory elements of Rv0560c. PRv0560c activity was highly inducible by salicylate in a dose-dependent manner. The induction kinetics of PRv0560c were slow, taking several days to reach maximal activity, which was sustained over several weeks. Promoter activity could also be induced by compounds structurally related to salicylate, such as aspirin or para-aminosalicylic acid, but not by benzoate, indicating that induction is specific to a structural motif. The −10 and −35 promoter elements were identified and residues involved in regulation of promoter activity were identified in close proximity to an inverted repeat spanning the −35 promoter element. We conclude that Rv0560c expression is controlled by a yet unknown repressor via a highly-inducible promoter.
PMCID: PMC3317779  PMID: 22485172
25.  Identifying Vulnerable Pathways in Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Using a Knockdown Approach ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(14):5040-5043.
We constructed recombinant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in which expression of specific genes was downregulated to identify vulnerable drug targets. Growth phenotypes in macrophages and culture were used to rank targets: the dprE1, clpP1, and fadD32 operons were the best targets and glnA1, glnE, pknL, regX3, and senX3 were poor targets.
PMCID: PMC3147394  PMID: 21642404

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