Antibiotic resistance is a serious global health threat. Current antibiotics target essential bacterial processes and impose strong selective pressure for resistance. Upon antibiotic treatment, the healthy microbiota are reduced in both number and diversity, leading to serious health consequences such as Clostridium difficile colitis. Moreover, resistant traits can be transferred to other microbes, leading to the spread of antibiotic resistance. Using virulence blockers to target specific pathogenicity mechanisms, while leaving the microbiota intact, is a promising strategy to reduce resistance. This proposal will identify molecular target of a newly discovered the type III secretion system (T3SS) inhibitor, and explore their modes of action for further optimization and development. I will assess structure ? activity relationship to optimize the T3SS inhibitors, cyclic pepeptomers, and use affinity based method to identify their molecular targets in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Besides, target-based drug discovery offers the advantage of being low cost and less time consuming. With the availability of high-resolution structure and development of algorithms to predict binding affinity and poses of small molecules to its protein target, virtual screening can provide lead for optimization. ExoU, an effector with phospholipase A2 activity, is the major effector in P. aeruginosa, one of six ESKAPE pathogens which cause the majority of nosocomial infections in the U.S. and ?escape? antimicrobial drugs. ExoU has a serine/aspartate catalytic dyad and a separate cofactor-binding domain required for activation of the enzyme. ExoU is highly toxic, associated with acute infection, antibiotic resistance and severe outcome in patents. Delay ExoU expression can increase mice survival. Thus we set out to find ExoU inhibitors as a strategy to treat acute infection and reduce resistance. We will identify ExoU inhibitors that 1) inhibit enzymatic activity by targeting its catalytic residue serine, or 2) bind to the membrane localization domain which will prevent ExoU's activation by virtual screening. The inhibitors that show binding affinity to ExoU in isothermal titration calorimetry assay, and prevent cell death caused by ExoU will be chosen for optimization. Structure of inhibitor-bound proteins will be solved using X-ray crystallography. I believe that my team of mentors (Drs. Stone and Ottemann), advisors (Dr. Rubin, expert in X-ray crystallography; Dr. Jacobson, expert in computer- aided drug discovery) and collaborators (Dr. Lokey, an expert in macromolecule synthesis, Drs. Crews and Linington, natural product chemists) will provide me support to successfully carry out this project. With the biochemical techniques I will learn, the structures and new inhibitors I will obtain in the K99 phase, I will then collaborate with Dr. Shaw (medicinal chemist) and Dr. Jacobson to optimize the candidate hits in my independent phase. This project extends my skill set in biochemical methods and has the potential to provide substantial momentum towards drug discovery, and development. These will serve as the foundation of a R01 proposal to be prepared upon the completion of the main stages of this research plan.

Public Health Relevance

The project will provide new virulence blocker candidates and their mode of action for further development and for use as a chemical probes in virulence study. Assays and experimental pipeline that will be developed in the research plan will be valuable for future drug discovery. !

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Career Transition Award (K99)
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Microbiology and Infectious Diseases B Subcommittee (MID)
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Ernst, Nancy L
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University of California Santa Cruz
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Santa Cruz
United States
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