Using the Bacterial Ribosome as a Discovery Platform for Peptide-Based Antibiotics

Biochemistry. 2019 Jan 15;58(2):75-84. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.8b00927. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


The threat of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics poses a major public health problem requiring immediate and coordinated action worldwide. While infectious pathogens have become increasingly resistant to commercially available drugs, antibiotic discovery programs in major pharmaceutical companies have produced no new antibiotic scaffolds in 40 years. As a result, new strategies must be sought to obtain a steady supply of novel scaffolds capable of countering the spread of resistance. The bacterial ribosome is a major target for antimicrobials and is inhibited by more than half of the antibiotics used today. Recent studies showing that the ribosome is a target for several classes of ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides point to ribosome-targeting peptides as a promising source of antibiotic scaffolds. In this Perspective, we revisit the current paradigm of antibiotic discovery by proposing that the bacterial ribosome can be used both as a target and as a tool for the production and selection of peptide-based antimicrobials. Turning the ribosome into a high-throughput platform for the directed evolution of peptide-based antibiotics could be achieved in different ways. One possibility would be to use a combination of state-of-the-art microfluidics and genetic reprogramming techniques, which we will review briefly. If it is successful, this strategy has the potential to produce new classes of antibiotics for treating multi-drug-resistant pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Directed Molecular Evolution / methods
  • Drug Discovery
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods
  • Peptide Library
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Protein Biosynthesis / drug effects
  • Ribosomes / drug effects*
  • Ribosomes / genetics
  • Ribosomes / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Peptide Library
  • Peptides