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1.  A kinetic platform for in silico modeling of the metabolic dynamics in Escherichia coli 
A prerequisite for a successful design and discovery of an antibacterial drug is the identification of essential targets as well as potent inhibitors that adversely affect the survival of bacteria. In order to understand how intracellular perturbations occur due to inhibition of essential metabolic pathways, we have built, through the use of ordinary differential equations, a mathematical model of 8 major Escherichia coli pathways.
Individual in vitro enzyme kinetic parameters published in the literature were used to build the network of pathways in such a way that the flux distribution matched that reported from whole cells. Gene regulation at the transcription level as well as feedback regulation of enzyme activity was incorporated as reported in the literature. The unknown kinetic parameters were estimated by trial and error through simulations by observing network stability. Metabolites, whose biosynthetic pathways were not represented in this platform, were provided at a fixed concentration. Unutilized products were maintained at a fixed concentration by removing excess quantities from the platform. This approach enabled us to achieve steady state levels of all the metabolites in the cell. The output of various simulations correlated well with those previously published.
Such a virtual platform can be exploited for target identification through assessment of their vulnerability, desirable mode of target enzyme inhibition, and metabolite profiling to ascribe mechanism of action following a specific target inhibition. Vulnerability of targets in the biosynthetic pathway of coenzyme A was evaluated using this platform. In addition, we also report the utility of this platform in understanding the impact of a physiologically relevant carbon source, glucose versus acetate, on metabolite profiles of bacterial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3170011  PMID: 21918631
antibacterial drug; mathematical model; kinetic platform; metabolic dynamics; Escherichia coli
2.  Screen for Inhibitors of the Coupled Transglycosylase-Transpeptidase of Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis in Escherichia coli 
Class A high-molecular-weight penicillin-binding protein 1a (PBP1a) and PBP1b of Escherichia coli have both transglycosylase (TG) and transpeptidase (TP) activity. These enzymes are difficult to assay, since their substrates are difficult to prepare. We show the activity of PBP1a or PBP1b can be measured in membranes by cloning the PBP into an E. coli ponB::Spcr strain. Using this assay, we show that PBP1a is ∼10-fold more sensitive to penicillin than PBP1b and that the 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) of moenomycin, a TG inhibitor, is ∼10-fold higher in the PBP transformants than in wild-type membranes; this increase in IC50 in transformants can be used to test the specificity of test compounds for inhibition of the TG. Alternatively, the coupled TG-TP activity of PBP1b can be directly measured in a two-step microplate assay. In the first step, radiolabeled lipid II, the TG substrate, was made in membranes of the E. coli ponB::Spcr strain by incubation with the peptidoglycan sugar precursors. In the second step, the TG-TP activity was assayed by adding a source of PBP1b to the membranes. The coupled TG-TP activity converts lipid II to cross-linked peptidoglycan, which was specifically captured by wheat germ agglutinin-coated scintillation proximity beads in the presence of 0.2% Sarkosyl (B. Chandrakala et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48:30-40, 2004). The TG-TP assay was inhibited by penicillin and moenomycin as expected. Surprisingly, tunicamycin and nisin also inhibited the assay, and paper chromatography analysis revealed that both inhibited the transglycosylase. The assay can be used to screen for novel antibacterial agents.
PMCID: PMC1426922  PMID: 16569861
3.  Scintillation Proximity Assay for Inhibitors of Escherichia coli MurG and, Optionally, MraY 
MurG and MraY, essential enzymes involved in the synthesis of bacterial peptidoglycan, are difficult to assay because the substrates are lipidic and hard to prepare in large quantities. Based on the use of Escherichia coli membranes lacking PBP1b, we report a high-throughput method to measure the activity of MurG and, optionally, MraY as well. In these membranes, incubation with the two peptidoglycan sugar precursors results in accumulation of lipid II rather than the peptidoglycan produced by wild-type membranes. MurG was assayed by addition of UDP-[3H]N-acetylglucosamine to membranes in which lipid I was preformed by incubation with UDP-N-acetyl-muramylpentapeptide, and the product was captured by wheat germ agglutinin scintillation proximity assay beads. In a modification of the assay, the activity of MraY was coupled to that of MurG by addition of both sugar precursors together in a single step. This allows simultaneous detection of inhibitors of either enzyme. Both assays could be performed using wild-type membranes by addition of the transglycosylase inhibitor moenomycin. Nisin and vancomycin inhibited the MurG reaction; the MraY-MurG assay was inhibited by tunicamycin as well. Inhibitors of other enzymes of peptidoglycan synthesis—penicillin G, moenomycin, and bacitracin—had no effect. Surprisingly, however, the β-lactam cephalosporin C inhibited both the MurG and MraY-MurG assays, indicating a secondary mechanism by which this drug inhibits bacterial growth. In addition, it inhibited NADH dehydrogenase in membranes, a hitherto-unreported activity. These assays can be used to screen for novel antibacterial agents.
PMCID: PMC1068599  PMID: 15793120

Results 1-3 (3)