Novel antibiotics targeting respiratory ATP synthesis in Gram-positive pathogenic bacteria

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2012 Aug;56(8):4131-9. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00273-12. Epub 2012 May 21.


Emergence of drug-resistant bacteria represents a high, unmet medical need, and discovery of new antibacterials acting on new bacterial targets is strongly needed. ATP synthase has been validated as an antibacterial target in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, where its activity can be specifically blocked by the diarylquinoline TMC207. However, potency of TMC207 is restricted to mycobacteria with little or no effect on the growth of other Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria. Here, we identify diarylquinolines with activity against key Gram-positive pathogens, significantly extending the antibacterial spectrum of the diarylquinoline class of drugs. These compounds inhibited growth of Staphylococcus aureus in planktonic state as well as in metabolically resting bacteria grown in a biofilm culture. Furthermore, time-kill experiments showed that the selected hits are rapidly bactericidal. Drug-resistant mutations were mapped to the ATP synthase enzyme, and biochemical analysis as well as drug-target interaction studies reveal ATP synthase as a target for these compounds. Moreover, knockdown of the ATP synthase expression strongly suppressed growth of S. aureus, revealing a crucial role of this target in bacterial growth and metabolism. Our data represent a proof of principle for using the diarylquinoline class of antibacterials in key Gram-positive pathogens. Our results suggest that broadening the antibacterial spectrum for this chemical class is possible without drifting off from the target. Development of the diarylquinolines class may represent a promising strategy for combating Gram-positive pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Synthetase Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ATP Synthetase Complexes / genetics
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / growth & development
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / growth & development
  • Quinolines / chemistry
  • Quinolines / pharmacology*
  • Quinolines / toxicity
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Quinolines
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • ATP Synthetase Complexes