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1.  Pharmacological Properties of NAI-603, a Well-Tolerated Semisynthetic Derivative of Ramoplanin 
NAI-603 is a ramoplanin derivative designed to overcome the tolerability issues of the parent drug as a systemic agent. NAI-603 is highly active against aerobic and anaerobic Gram-positive bacteria, with MICs ranging from 0.008 to 8 μg/ml. MICs were not significantly affected by pH (range, 6 to 8), by inoculum up to 108 CFU/ml, or by addition of 50% human serum. Against staphylococci and enterococci, NAI-603 was rapidly bactericidal, with minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC)/MIC ratios never exceeding 4. The frequency of spontaneous resistance was low at 2× to 4× MIC (≤1 × 10−6 to ≤1 × 10−8) and below the detection limit (about ≤1 × 10−9) at 8× MIC. Serial subcultures at 0.5× MIC yielded at most an 8-fold increase in MICs. In a systemic infection induced by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the 50% effective dose (ED50) of intravenous (i.v.) NAI-603 was 0.4 mg/kg, lower than that of oral (p.o.) linezolid (1.4 mg/kg) and subcutaneous (s.c.) teicoplanin (1.4 mg/kg) or vancomycin (0.6 mg/kg). In neutropenic mice infected with vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), the ED50s for NAI-603 were 1.1 to 1.6 mg/kg i.v., compared to 0.5 mg/kg i.v. of ramoplanin. The bactericidal activity was confirmed in vivo in the rat granuloma pouch model induced by MRSA, where NAI-603, at 40 mg/kg i.v., induced about a 2- to 3-log10-reduction in viable bacteria in the exudates, which persisted for more than 72 h. The pharmacokinetic (PK) profiles of NAI-603 and ramoplanin at 20 mg/kg show similar half-lives (3.27 and 3.80 h, respectively) with the maximum concentration (Cmax) markedly higher for NAI-603 (207 μg/ml versus 79 μg/ml). The favorable pharmacological profile of NAI-603, coupled with the absence of local tolerability issues, supports further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4023767  PMID: 24419352
2.  Discovering new bioactive molecules from microbial sources 
Microbial Biotechnology  2014;7(3):209-220.
There is an increased need for new drug leads to treat diseases in humans, animals and plants. A dramatic example is represented by the need for novel and more effective antibiotics to combat multidrug-resistant microbial pathogens. Natural products represent a major source of approved drugs and still play an important role in supplying chemical diversity, despite a decreased interest by large pharmaceutical companies. Novel approaches must be implemented to decrease the chances of rediscovering the tens of thousands of known natural products. In this review, we present an overview of natural product screening, focusing particularly on microbial products. Different approaches can be implemented to increase the probability of finding new bioactive molecules. We thus present the rationale and selected examples of the use of hypersensitive assays; of accessing unexplored microorganisms, including the metagenome; and of genome mining. We then focus our attention on the technology platform that we are currently using, consisting of approximately 70 000 microbial strains, mostly actinomycetes and filamentous fungi, and discuss about high-quality screening in the search for bioactive molecules. Finally, two case studies are discussed, including the spark that arose interest in the compound: in the case of orthoformimycin, the novel mechanism of action predicted a novel structural class; in the case of NAI-112, structural similarity pointed out to a possible in vivo activity. Both predictions were then experimentally confirmed.
PMCID: PMC3992017  PMID: 24661414
3.  GE23077 binds to the RNA polymerase ‘i’ and ‘i+1’ sites and prevents the binding of initiating nucleotides 
eLife  2014;3:e02450.
Using a combination of genetic, biochemical, and structural approaches, we show that the cyclic-peptide antibiotic GE23077 (GE) binds directly to the bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) active-center ‘i’ and ‘i+1’ nucleotide binding sites, preventing the binding of initiating nucleotides, and thereby preventing transcription initiation. The target-based resistance spectrum for GE is unusually small, reflecting the fact that the GE binding site on RNAP includes residues of the RNAP active center that cannot be substituted without loss of RNAP activity. The GE binding site on RNAP is different from the rifamycin binding site. Accordingly, GE and rifamycins do not exhibit cross-resistance, and GE and a rifamycin can bind simultaneously to RNAP. The GE binding site on RNAP is immediately adjacent to the rifamycin binding site. Accordingly, covalent linkage of GE to a rifamycin provides a bipartite inhibitor having very high potency and very low susceptibility to target-based resistance.
eLife digest
As increasing numbers of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, new drugs are needed to fight bacterial infections. To develop new antibacterial drugs, researchers need to understand how existing antibiotics work. There are many ways to kill bacteria, but one of the most effective is to target an enzyme called bacterial RNA polymerase. If bacterial RNA polymerase is prevented from working, bacteria cannot synthesize RNA and cannot survive.
GE23077 (GE for short) is an antibiotic produced by bacteria found in soil. Although GE stops bacterial RNA polymerase from working, and thereby kills bacteria, it does not affect mammalian RNA polymerases, and so does not kill mammalian cells. Understanding how GE works could help with the development of new antibacterial drugs.
Zhang et al. present results gathered from a range of techniques to show how GE inhibits bacterial RNA polymerase. These show that GE works by binding to a site on RNA polymerase that is different from the binding sites of previously characterized antibacterial drugs. The mechanism used to inhibit the RNA polymerase is also different.
The newly identified binding site has several features that make it an unusually attractive target for development of antibacterial compounds. Bacteria can become resistant to an antibiotic if genetic mutations lead to changes in the site the antibiotic binds to. However, the site that GE binds to on RNA polymerase is essential for RNA polymerase to function and so cannot readily be changed without crippling the enzyme. Therefore, this type of antibiotic resistance is less likely to develop.
In addition, the newly identified binding site for GE on RNA polymerase is located next to the binding site for a current antibacterial drug, rifampin. Zhang et al. therefore linked GE and rifampin to form a two-part (‘bipartite’) compound designed to bind simultaneously to the GE and the rifampin binding sites. This compound was able to inhibit drug-resistant RNA polymerases tens to thousands of times more potently than GE or rifampin alone.
PMCID: PMC3994528  PMID: 24755292
RNA polymerase; RNA polymerase-promoter open complex; transcription; transcription initiation; inhibitor; bipartite inhibitor; E. coli; Streptococcus pyogenes
4.  Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products: overview and recommendations for a universal nomenclature 
Natural product reports  2013;30(1):108-160.
This review presents recommended nomenclature for the biosynthesis of ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs), a rapidly growing class of natural products. The current knowledge regarding the biosynthesis of the >20 distinct compound classes is also reviewed, and commonalities are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3954855  PMID: 23165928
Current opinion in microbiology  2011;14(5):532-543.
A new drug target-- the "switch region"--has been identified within bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP), the enzyme that mediates bacterial RNA synthesis. The new target serves as the binding site for compounds that inhibit bacterial RNA synthesis and kill bacteria. Since the new target is present in most bacterial species, compounds that bind to the new target are active against a broad spectrum of bacterial species. Since the new target is different from targets of other antibacterial agents, compounds that bind to the new target are not cross-resistant with other antibacterial agents. Four antibiotocs that function through the new target have been identified: myxopyronin, corallopyronin, ripostatin, and lipiarmycin. This review summarizes the switch region, switch-region inhibitors, and implications for antibacterial drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3196380  PMID: 21862392
6.  Efficacy of the New Lantibiotic NAI-107 in Experimental Infections Induced by Multidrug-Resistant Gram-Positive Pathogens▿  
NAI-107 is a novel lantibiotic active against Gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), glycopeptide-intermediate S. aureus (GISA), and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vivo efficacy of NAI-107 in animal models of severe infection. In acute lethal infections induced with a penicillin-intermediate Streptococcus pneumoniae strain in immunocompetent mice, or with MRSA, GISA, and VRE strains in neutropenic mice, the 50% effective dose (ED50) values of NAI-107 were comparable or lower than those of reference compounds, irrespective of the strain and immune status (0.51 to 14.2 mg/kg of body weight for intravenous [i.v.] NAI-107, 5.1 to 22.4 for oral linezolid, and 22.4 for subcutaneous [s.c.] vancomycin). In the granuloma pouch model induced in rats with a MRSA strain, intravenous NAI-107 showed a dose-proportional bactericidal activity that, at a single 40-mg/kg dose, compared with 2 20-mg/kg doses at a 12-h or 24-h interval, caused a 3-log10-CFU/ml reduction of viable MRSA in exudates that persisted for more than 72 h. Rat endocarditis was induced with a MRSA strain and treated for five consecutive days. In a first experiment, using 5, 10, or 20 mg/kg/day, and in a second experiment, when 10 mg/kg at 12-h intervals was compared to 20 mg/kg/day, intravenous NAI-107 was effective in reducing the bacterial load in heart vegetations in a dose-proportional manner. Trough plasma levels, as determined on days 2 and 5, were several times higher than the NAI-107 minimal bactericidal concentration (MBC). NAI-107 binding to rat and human serum ranges between 93% and 98.6%. The rapid bactericidal activity of NAI-107 observed in vitro was thus confirmed by the efficacy in several models of experimental infection induced by Gram-positive pathogens, supporting further investigation of the compound.
PMCID: PMC3067139  PMID: 21220527
7.  Phosphate-Controlled Regulator for the Biosynthesis of the Dalbavancin Precursor A40926▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(22):8120-8129.
The actinomycete Nonomuraea sp. strain ATCC 39727 produces the glycopeptide A40926, the precursor of the novel antibiotic dalbavancin. Previous studies have shown that phosphate limitation results in enhanced A40926 production. The A40926 biosynthetic gene (dbv) cluster, which consists of 37 genes, encodes two putative regulators, Dbv3 and Dbv4, as well as the response regulator (Dbv6) and the sensor-kinase (Dbv22) of a putative two-component system. Reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and real-time RT-PCR analysis revealed that the dbv14-dbv8 and the dbv30-dbv35 operons, as well as dbv4, were negatively influenced by phosphate. Dbv4 shows a putative helix-turn-helix DNA-binding motif and shares sequence similarity with StrR, the transcriptional activator of streptomycin biosynthesis in Streptomyces griseus. Dbv4 was expressed in Escherichia coli as an N-terminal His6-tagged protein. The purified protein bound the dbv14 and dbv30 upstream regions but not the region preceding dbv4. Bbr, a Dbv4 ortholog from the gene cluster for the synthesis of the glycopeptide balhimycin, also bound to the dbv14 and dbv30 upstream regions, while Dbv4 bound appropriate regions from the balhimycin cluster. Our results provide new insights into the regulation of glycopeptide antibiotics, indicating that the phosphate-controlled regulator Dbv4 governs two key steps in A40926 biosynthesis: the biosynthesis of the nonproteinogenic amino acid 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine and critical tailoring reactions on the heptapeptide backbone.
PMCID: PMC2168674  PMID: 17873036
8.  Complete gene expression profiling of Saccharopolyspora erythraea using GeneChip DNA microarrays 
The Saccharopolyspora erythraea genome sequence, recently published, presents considerable divergence from those of streptomycetes in gene organization and function, confirming the remarkable potential of S. erythraea for producing many other secondary metabolites in addition to erythromycin. In order to investigate, at whole transcriptome level, how S. erythraea genes are modulated, a DNA microarray was specifically designed and constructed on the S. erythraea strain NRRL 2338 genome sequence, and the expression profiles of 6494 ORFs were monitored during growth in complex liquid medium.
The transcriptional analysis identified a set of 404 genes, whose transcriptional signals vary during growth and characterize three distinct phases: a rapid growth until 32 h (Phase A); a growth slowdown until 52 h (Phase B); and another rapid growth phase from 56 h to 72 h (Phase C) before the cells enter the stationary phase. A non-parametric statistical method, that identifies chromosomal regions with transcriptional imbalances, determined regional organization of transcription along the chromosome, highlighting differences between core and non-core regions, and strand specific patterns of expression. Microarray data were used to characterize the temporal behaviour of major functional classes and of all the gene clusters for secondary metabolism. The results confirmed that the ery cluster is up-regulated during Phase A and identified six additional clusters (for terpenes and non-ribosomal peptides) that are clearly regulated in later phases.
The use of a S. erythraea DNA microarray improved specificity and sensitivity of gene expression analysis, allowing a global and at the same time detailed picture of how S. erythraea genes are modulated. This work underlines the importance of using DNA microarrays, coupled with an exhaustive statistical and bioinformatic analysis of the results, to understand the transcriptional organization of the chromosomes of micro-organisms producing natural products.
PMCID: PMC2206050  PMID: 18039355
9.  New Lineage of Filamentous, Spore-Forming, Gram-Positive Bacteria from Soil 
A novel bacterial strain that was isolated from an Italian soil and was designated SOSP1-21T forms branched mycelia in solid and liquid media and has a filamentous morphology similar to that of some genera belonging to the Actinobacteria. Electron microscopy showed that this organism has a grape-like appearance, resulting from interlacing of spores originating from sporophoric hyphae. Ten strains that are morphologically related to SOSP1-21T were recovered from soil. Phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA gene segments confirmed the relatedness of these strains to SOSP1-21T and indicated that the newly isolated strains form separate clades in a deeply branching lineage. The closest matches for the 16S rRNA sequences of all the strains (around 79% identity) were matches with representatives of the Chloroflexi, although the affiliation with this division was not supported by high bootstrap values. The strains are mesophilic aerobic heterotrophs and are also capable of growing under microaerophilic conditions. They all stain gram positive. Strain SOSP1-21T contains ornithine, alanine, glutamic acid, serine, and glycine as the peptidoglycan amino acids. In addition, an unusual level of C16:1 2OH (30%) was found in the cellular fatty acids. The G+C content of SOSP1-21T genomic DNA is 53.9%, and MK-9(H2) was the only menaquinone detected. All these data suggest that SOSP1-21T and the related strains may constitute a new division of filamentous, spore-forming, gram-positive bacteria. We propose the name Ktedobacter racemifer gen. nov., sp. nov. for strain SOSP1-21T.
PMCID: PMC1489649  PMID: 16751552
10.  Bacterial discrimination by means of a universal array approach mediated by LDR (ligase detection reaction) 
BMC Microbiology  2002;2:27.
PCR amplification of bacterial 16S rRNA genes provides the most comprehensive and flexible means of sampling bacterial communities. Sequence analysis of these cloned fragments can provide a qualitative and quantitative insight of the microbial population under scrutiny although this approach is not suited to large-scale screenings. Other methods, such as denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, heteroduplex or terminal restriction fragment analysis are rapid and therefore amenable to field-scale experiments. A very recent addition to these analytical tools is represented by microarray technology.
Here we present our results using a Universal DNA Microarray approach as an analytical tool for bacterial discrimination. The proposed procedure is based on the properties of the DNA ligation reaction and requires the design of two probes specific for each target sequence. One oligo carries a fluorescent label and the other a unique sequence (cZipCode or complementary ZipCode) which identifies a ligation product. Ligated fragments, obtained in presence of a proper template (a PCR amplified fragment of the 16s rRNA gene) contain either the fluorescent label or the unique sequence and therefore are addressed to the location on the microarray where the ZipCode sequence has been spotted. Such an array is therefore "Universal" being unrelated to a specific molecular analysis. Here we present the design of probes specific for some groups of bacteria and their application to bacterial diagnostics.
The combined use of selective probes, ligation reaction and the Universal Array approach yielded an analytical procedure with a good power of discrimination among bacteria.
PMCID: PMC128835  PMID: 12243651
11.  Assembly of large genomic segments in artificial chromosomes by homologous recombination in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(7):e37.
We developed a method for the reconstruction of a 100 kb DNA fragment into a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). The procedure makes use of iterative rounds of homologous recombination in Escherichia coli. Smaller, overlapping fragments of cloned DNA, such as cosmid clones, are required. They are transferred first into a temperature-sensitive replicon and then into the BAC of choice. We demonstrated the usefulness of this procedure by assembling a 90 kb genomic segment into an E.coli–Streptomyces artificial chromosome (ESAC). Using this procedure, ESACs are easy to handle and remarkably more stable than the starting cosmids.
PMCID: PMC31298  PMID: 11266572

Results 1-11 (11)