How antibiotics kill bacteria: from targets to networks

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2010 Jun;8(6):423-35. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2333. Epub 2010 May 4.


Antibiotic drug-target interactions, and their respective direct effects, are generally well characterized. By contrast, the bacterial responses to antibiotic drug treatments that contribute to cell death are not as well understood and have proven to be complex as they involve many genetic and biochemical pathways. In this Review, we discuss the multilayered effects of drug-target interactions, including the essential cellular processes that are inhibited by bactericidal antibiotics and the associated cellular response mechanisms that contribute to killing. We also discuss new insights into these mechanisms that have been revealed through the study of biological networks, and describe how these insights, together with related developments in synthetic biology, could be exploited to create new antibacterial therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Cell Wall / drug effects
  • DNA Replication / drug effects
  • Drug Discovery
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Quinolones / pharmacology
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • Rifamycins / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Quinolones
  • Rifamycins
  • RNA