Elucidation of the Mode of Action of a New Antibacterial Compound Active against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Nosocomial and community-acquired infections caused by multidrug resistant bacteria represent a major human health problem. Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of antibiotics with new modes of action. In this study, we investigated the antibacterial characteristics and mode of action of a new antimicrobial compound, SPI031 (N-alkylated 3, 6-dihalogenocarbazol 1-(sec-butylamino)-3-(3,6-dichloro-9H-carbazol-9-yl) propan-2-ol), which was previously identified in our group. This compound exhibits broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, including activity against the human pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We found that SPI031 has rapid bactericidal activity (7-log reduction within 30 min at 4x MIC) and that the frequency of resistance development against SPI031 is low. To elucidate the mode of action of SPI031, we performed a macromolecular synthesis assay, which showed that SPI031 causes non-specific inhibition of macromolecular biosynthesis pathways. Liposome leakage and membrane permeability studies revealed that SPI031 rapidly exerts membrane damage, which is likely the primary cause of its antibacterial activity. These findings were supported by a mutational analysis of SPI031-resistant mutants, a transcriptome analysis and the identification of transposon mutants with altered sensitivity to the compound. In conclusion, our results show that SPI031 exerts its antimicrobial activity by causing membrane damage, making it an interesting starting point for the development of new antibacterial therapies.

Elucidation of the Mode of Action of a New Antibacterial Compound Active against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Gerits, Evelien; Blommaert, Eline; Lippell, Anna; O'Neill, Alex J.; Weytjens, Bram; De Maeyer, Dries; Fierro, Ana Carolina; Marchal, Kathleen; Marchand, Arnaud; Chaltin, Patrick; Spincemaille, Pieter; De Brucker, Katrijn; Thevissen, Karin; Cammue, Bruno P. A.; Swings, Toon; Liebens, Veerle; Fauvart, Maarten; Verstraeten, Natalie; Michiels, Jan. PLOS ONE, 11 (5):10.1371/journal.pone.0155139 MAY 11 2016.