Plantazolicin (PZN) is a ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified natural product from Bacillus methylotrophicus FZB42 and Bacillus pumilus. Extensive tailoring to twelve of the fourteen amino acid residues in the mature natural product endows PZN with not only a rigid, polyheterocyclic structure, but also antibacterial activity. Here we report a remarkably discriminatory activity of PZN toward Bacillus anthracis, which rivals a previously-described gamma (γ) phage lysis assay in distinguishing B. anthracis from other members of the Bacillus cereus group. We evaluate the underlying cause of this selective activity by measuring the RNA expression profile of PZN-treated B. anthracis, which revealed significant upregulation of genes within the cell envelope stress response. PZN depolarizes the B. anthracis membrane like other cell envelope-acting compounds but uniquely localizes to distinct foci within the envelope. Selection and whole-genome sequencing of PZN-resistant mutants of B. anthracis implicate a relationship between the action of PZN and cardiolipin (CL) within the membrane. Exogenous CL increases the potency of PZN in wild type B. anthracis and promotes the incorporation of fluorescently tagged PZN in the cell envelope. We propose that PZN localizes to and exacerbates structurally compromised regions of the bacterial membrane, which ultimately results in cell lysis.
Keywords: Bacillus anthracis; Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified natural product; anthrax; antibiotic; membrane depolarization; mode of action; oxazole; pathogen specific antibiotic; thiazole.