Targeting virulence: salmochelin modification tunes the antibacterial activity spectrum of β-lactams for pathogen-selective killing of Escherichia coli†
New antibiotics are required to treat bacterial infections and counteract the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Pathogen-specific antibiotics have several advantages over broad-spectrum drugs, which include minimal perturbation to the commensal microbiota. We present a strategy for targeting antibiotics to bacterial pathogens that utilises the salmochelin-mediated iron uptake machinery of Gram-negative Escherichia coli. Salmochelins are C-glucosylated derivatives of the siderophore enterobactin. The biosynthesis and utilisation of salmochelins are important for virulence because these siderophores allow pathogens to acquire iron and evade the enterobactin-scavenging host-defense protein lipocalin-2. Inspired by the salmochelins, we report the design and chemoenzymatic preparation of glucosylated enterobactin–β-lactam conjugates that harbour the antibiotics ampicillin (Amp) and amoxicillin (Amx), hereafter GlcEnt–Amp/Amx. The GlcEnt scaffolds are based on mono- and diglucosylated Ent where one catechol moiety is functionalized at the C5 position for antibiotic attachment. We demonstrate that GlcEnt–Amp/Amx provide up to 1000-fold enhanced antimicrobial activity against uropathogenic E. coli relative to the parent β-lactams. Moreover, GlcEnt–Amp/Amx based on a diglucosylated Ent (DGE) platform selectively kill uropathogenic E. coli that express the salmochelin receptor IroN in the presence of non-pathogenic E. coli and other bacterial strains that include the commensal microbe Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. Moreover, GlcEnt–Amp/Amx evade the host-defense protein lipocalin-2, and exhibit low toxicity to mammalian cells. Our work establishes that siderophore–antibiotic conjugates provide a strategy for targeting virulence, narrowing the activity spectrum of antibiotics in clinical use, and achieving selective delivery of antibacterial cargos to pathogenic bacteria on the basis of siderophore receptor expression.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Global challenges: Health & Food