Structure- and Ligand-Dynamics-Based Design of Novel Antibiotics Targeting Lipid A Enzymes LpxC and LpxH in Gram-Negative Bacteria.
Bacterial infections caused by multi-drug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens pose a serious threat to public health. Gram-negative bacteria are characterized by the enrichment of lipid A-anchored lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in the outer leaflet of their outer membrane. Constitutive biosynthesis of lipid A via the Raetz pathway is essential for bacterial viability and fitness in the human host. The inhibition of early-stage lipid A enzymes such as LpxC not only suppresses the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Enterobacter spp., and other clinically important Gram-negative pathogens but also sensitizes these bacteria to other antibiotics. The inhibition of late-stage lipid A enzymes such as LpxH is uniquely advantageous because it has an extra mechanism of bacterial killing through the accumulation of toxic lipid A intermediates, rendering LpxH inhibition additionally lethal to Acinetobacter baumannii. Because essential enzymes of the Raetz pathway have never been exploited by commercial antibiotics, they are excellent targets for the development of novel antibiotics against multi-drug-resistant Gram-negative infections.This Account describes the ongoing research on characterizing the structure and inhibition of LpxC and LpxH, the second and fourth enzymes of the Raetz pathway of lipid A biosynthesis, in the laboratories of Dr. Pei Zhou and Dr. Jiyong Hong at Duke University. Our studies have elucidated the molecular basis of LpxC inhibition by the first broad-spectrum inhibitor, CHIR-090, as well as the mechanism underlying its spectrum of activity. Such an analysis has provided a molecular explanation for the broad-spectrum antibiotic activity of diacetylene-based LpxC inhibitors. Through the structural and biochemical investigation of LpxC inhibition by diacetylene LpxC inhibitors and the first nanomolar LpxC inhibitor, L-161,240, we have elucidated the intrinsic conformational and dynamics difference in individual LpxC enzymes near the active site. A similar approach has been taken to investigate LpxH inhibition, leading to the establishment of the pharmacophore model of LpxH inhibitors and subsequent structural elucidation of LpxH in complex with its first reported small-molecule inhibitor based on a sulfonyl piperazine scaffold.Intriguingly, although our crystallographic analysis of LpxC- and LpxH-inhibitor complexes detected only a single inhibitor conformation in the crystal lattice, solution NMR studies revealed the existence of multiple ligand conformations that together delineate a cryptic ligand envelope expanding the ligand-binding footprint beyond that observed in the crystal structure. By harnessing the ligand dynamics information and structural insights, we demonstrate the feasibility to design potent LpxC and LpxH inhibitors by merging multiple ligand conformations. Such an approach has enabled us to rationally design compounds with significantly enhanced potency in enzymatic assays and outstanding antibiotic activities in vitro and in animal models of bacterial infection. We anticipate that continued efforts with structure and ligand dynamics-based lead optimization will ultimately lead to the discovery of LpxC- and LpxH-targeting clinical antibiotics against a broad range of Gram-negative pathogens.
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