Energetic, structural, and antimicrobial analyses of beta-lactam side chain recognition by beta-lactamases

Chem Biol. 2001 Jan;8(1):17-31. doi: 10.1016/s1074-5521(00)00052-1.


Background: Penicillins and cephalosporins are among the most widely used and successful antibiotics. The emergence of resistance to these beta-lactams, most often through bacterial expression of beta-lactamases, threatens public health. To understand how beta-lactamases recognize their substrates, it would be helpful to know their binding energies. Unfortunately, these have been difficult to measure because beta-lactams form covalent adducts with beta-lactamases. This has complicated functional analyses and inhibitor design.

Results: To investigate the contribution to interaction energy of the key amide (R1) side chain of beta-lactam antibiotics, eight acylglycineboronic acids that bear the side chains of characteristic penicillins and cephalosporins, as well as four other analogs, were synthesized. These transition-state analogs form reversible adducts with serine beta-lactamases. Therefore, binding energies can be calculated directly from K(i) values. The K(i) values measured span four orders of magnitude against the Group I beta-lactamase AmpC and three orders of magnitude against the Group II beta-lactamase TEM-1. The acylglycineboronic acids have K(i) values as low as 20 nM against AmpC and as low as 390 nM against TEM-1. The inhibitors showed little activity against serine proteases, such as chymotrypsin. R1 side chains characteristic of beta-lactam inhibitors did not have better affinity for AmpC than did side chains characteristic of beta-lactam substrates. Two of the inhibitors reversed the resistance of pathogenic bacteria to beta-lactams in cell culture. Structures of two inhibitors in their complexes with AmpC were determined by X-ray crystallography to 1.90 A and 1.75 A resolution; these structures suggest interactions that are important to the affinity of the inhibitors.

Conclusions: Acylglycineboronic acids allow us to begin to dissect interaction energies between beta-lactam side chains and beta-lactamases. Surprisingly, there is little correlation between the affinity contributed by R1 side chains and their occurrence in beta-lactam inhibitors or beta-lactam substrates of serine beta-lactamases. Nevertheless, presented in acylglycineboronic acids, these side chains can lead to inhibitors with high affinities and specificities. The structures of their complexes with AmpC give a molecular context to their affinities and may guide the design of anti-resistance compounds in this series.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Binding Sites
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Enterobacter cloacae / drug effects
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Static Electricity
  • Thermodynamics
  • beta-Lactam Resistance
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism*
  • beta-Lactams


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactams
  • beta-Lactamases