The bacterial cell division protein FtsZ polymerizes in a GTP-dependent manner to form a Z-ring that marks the plane of division. As a validated antimicrobial target, considerable efforts have been devoted to identify small molecule FtsZ inhibitors. We recently discovered the chrysophaentins, a novel suite of marine natural products that inhibit FtsZ activity in vitro. These natural products along with a synthetic hemi-chrysophaentin exhibit strong antimicrobial activity toward a broad spectrum of Gram-positive pathogens. To define their mechanisms of FtsZ inhibition and determine their in vivo effects in live bacteria, we used GTPase assays and fluorescence anisotropy to show that hemi-chrysophaentin competitively inhibits FtsZ activity. Furthermore, we developed a model system using a permeable Escherichia coli strain, envA1, together with an inducible FtsZ-yellow fluorescent protein construct to show by fluorescence microscopy that both chrysophaentin A and hemi-chrysophaentin disrupt Z-rings in live bacteria. We tested the E. coli system further by reproducing phenotypes observed for zantrins Z1 and Z3, and demonstrate that the alkaloid berberine, a reported FtsZ inhibitor, exhibits auto-fluorescence, making it incompatible with systems that employ GFP or YFP tagged FtsZ. These studies describe unique examples of nonnucleotide, competitive FtsZ inhibitors that disrupt FtsZ in vivo, together with a model system that should be useful for in vivo testing of FtsZ inhibitor leads that have been identified through in vitro screens but are unable to penetrate the Gram-negative outer membrane.
Keywords: Antibiotics; Bacterial cytoskeleton; Drug resistant bacteria; Natural products.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.