Irreversible inhibition of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis beta-lactamase by clavulanate

Biochemistry. 2007 Oct 30;46(43):11998-2004. doi: 10.1021/bi701506h. Epub 2007 Oct 4.


Members of the beta-lactam class of antibiotics, which inhibit the bacterial d,d-transpeptidases involved in cell wall biosynthesis, have never been used systematically in the treatment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections because of this organism's resistance to beta-lactams. The critical resistance factor is the constitutive production of a chromosomally encoded, Ambler class A beta-lactamase, BlaC in M. tuberculosis. We show that BlaC is an extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) with high levels of penicillinase and cephalosporinase activity as well as measurable activity with carbapenems, including imipenem and meropenem. We have characterized the enzyme's inhibition by three FDA-approved beta-lactamase inhibitors: sulbactam, tazobactam, and clavulanate. Sulbactam inhibits the enzyme competitively and reversibly with respect to nitrocefin. Tazobactam inhibits the enzyme in a time-dependent manner, but the activity of the enzyme reappears due to the slow hydrolysis of the covalently acylated enzyme. In contrast, clavulanate reacts with the enzyme quickly to form hydrolytically stable, inactive forms of the enzyme that have been characterized by mass spectrometry. Clavulanate has potential to be used in combination with approved beta-lactam antibiotics to treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extremely drug resistant (XDR) strains of M. tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Clavulanic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Hydrolysis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / enzymology*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors
  • Clavulanic Acid