Dithiolopyrrolone antibiotics share a unique disulfide-bridged heterobicyclic core and exhibit potent activities against bacteria, fungi, and mammalian cancer cell lines. Although the dithiolopyrrolones have been known for over sixty years, their therapeutic mode of action, biosynthesis, and physiological functions are not well understood. A genome-mining approach was used to identify the biosynthetic gene cluster of a particular dithiolopyrrolone compound, holomycin, in its producing strain, Streptomyces clavuligerus. This preliminary work established the foundation for more intensive investigations of the dithiolopyrrolone scaffold, described herein. This proposal includes three specific aims: 1) Elucidating the modes of action of dithiolopyrrolones including holomycin. Holomycin is hypothesized to exert its activity through redox cycling and/or protein modification. A systems biology approach will be undertaken to group holomycin with antibiotics with known mechanisms of action. In conjunction, transcriptional profiling studies of holomycin-treated bacteria will be carried out to further provide clues regarding the mode of action. Pull down experiments will also be performed in bacterial culture to identify the molecular target(s) and chemical reactivity of holomycin;2) Investigating the biosynthetic pathway of dithiolopyrrolones. In-depth characterization of the order and mechanisms of individual enzymatic transformations will be carried out regarding the holomycin biosynthetic pathway, in particular the redox chemistry involved in the oxidation steps and bicyclic ring formation. Further, a genome-mining approach will be utilized to uncover unknown dithiolopyrrolone gene clusters and novel dithiolopyrrolone compounds;3) Scrutinizing the functions and regulatory mechanisms of holomycin in Streptomyces. Though identified as antibiotics and anticancer molecules, dithiolopyrrolones are hypothesized to serve as signaling molecules for their producing organisms. Transcriptional profiling studies will be undertaken to examine the effects of holomycin in S. clavuligerus and model Streptomyces strain, S. coelicolor. The regulatory mechanism of holomycin production will be explored through transcriptional analysis and genetic manipulation of the regulatory genes present in the cluster. The studies described in this proposal will significantly advance our understanding of Nature's logic to assemble dithiolopyrrolones and their mechanisms of action, provide new ways to convert them into viable therapeutics for cancer and infectious diseases, and shed light on the intricate regulatory network of secondary metabolites in Streptomyces, the industrial workhorses accounting for a large number of drugs in current use.
Studies in natural products have proven fertile ground for discovery and design of novel pharmaceuticals. The proposed research on the dithiolopyrrolone antibiotics, a unique group of natural products, will afford new ways to generate these antibiotics, and provide basis for future efforts to improve their pharmacological effects in treating infectious diseases and cancer. Further, the dithiolopyrrolone-producing microorganisms generate a large wealth of natural products, and a deeper understanding of these microorganisms will build foundation for the discovery of novel therapeutics.