Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases: essential and still promising targets for new anti-infective agents

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007 May;16(5):573-93. doi: 10.1517/13543784.16.5.573.


The emergence of resistance to existing antibiotics demands the development of novel antimicrobial agents directed against novel targets. Historically, bacterial cell wall synthesis, protein, and DNA and RNA synthesis have been major targets of very successful classes of antibiotics such as beta-lactams, glycopeptides, macrolides, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, rifampicins and quinolones. Recently, efforts have been made to develop novel agents against validated targets in these pathways but also against new, previously unexploited targets. The era of genomics has provided insights into novel targets in microbial pathogens. Among the less exploited--but still promising--targets is the family of 20 aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs), which are essential for protein synthesis. These targets have been validated in nature as aaRS inhibition has been shown as the specific mode of action for many natural antimicrobial agents synthesized by bacteria and fungi. Therefore, aaRSs have the potential to be targeted by novel agents either from synthetic or natural sources to yield specific and selective anti-infectives. Numerous high-throughput screening programs aimed at identifying aaRS inhibitors have been performed over the last 20 years. A large number of promising lead compounds have been identified but only a few agents have moved forward into clinical development. This review provides an update on the present strategies to develop novel aaRS inhibitors as anti-infective drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Drugs, Investigational / chemistry
  • Drugs, Investigational / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Investigational / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mupirocin / chemistry
  • Mupirocin / pharmacology*
  • Mupirocin / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Drugs, Investigational
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Mupirocin
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases