Polymyxins are currently used as the last-resort antibiotics against multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. As resistance to polymyxins emerges in A. baumannii with monotherapy, combination therapy is often the only remaining treatment option. A novel approach is to employ the combination of polymyxin B with non-antibiotic drugs. In the present study, we employed metabolomics to investigate the synergistic mechanism of polymyxin B in combination with the antineoplastic drug mitotane against polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii. The metabolomes of four A. baumannii strains were analyzed following treatment with polymyxin B, mitotane and the combination. Polymyxin B monotherapy induced significant perturbation in glycerophospholipid (GPL) metabolism and histidine degradation pathways in polymyxin-susceptible strains, and minimal perturbation in polymyxin-resistant strains. Mitotane monotherapy induced minimal perturbation in the polymyxin-susceptible strains, but caused significant perturbation in GPL metabolism, pentose phosphate pathway and histidine degradation in the LPS-deficient polymyxin-resistant strain (FADDI-AB065). The polymyxin B - mitotane combination induced significant perturbation in all strains except the lipid A modified polymyxin-resistant FADDI-AB225 strain. For the polymyxin-susceptible strains, the combination therapy significantly perturbed GPL metabolism, pentose phosphate pathway, citric acid cycle, pyrimidine ribonucleotide biogenesis, guanine ribonucleotide biogenesis, and histidine degradation. Against FADDI-AB065, the combination significantly perturbed GPL metabolism, pentose phosphate pathway, citric acid cycle, and pyrimidine ribonucleotide biogenesis. Overall, these novel findings demonstrate that the disruption of the citric acid cycle and inhibition of nucleotide biogenesis are the key metabolic features associated with synergistic bacterial killing by the combination against polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii.
Keywords: combination therapy; metabolomics; mitotane; multidrug-resistance; polymyxin.