Antibiotic acyldepsipeptides (ADEPs) exert potent antibacterial activity in rodent models of bacterial infection and exceptional efficacy against persister cells of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The mechanism of ADEP action is unusual in that the antibiotic releases the destructive capacity of over-activated ClpP, the proteolytic core of the bacterial Clp protease. The essential bacterial cell division protein FtsZ had emerged in a previous study as a preferred protein substrate of ADEP-activated ClpP but it is definitely not the only cellular substrate. In the current study, we set out to follow the morphological changes that lead to ADEP-mediated bacterial death in S. aureus and Bacillus subtilis, differentiating between antibacterial effects at low and high ADEP concentrations. Here, fluorescence and time-lapse microscopy data show that cells adopt a characteristic phenotype of cell division inhibition at ADEP levels close to the MIC, but retain the capacity to form viable daughter cells for a substantial period of time when transferred to ADEP-free growth medium. After extended exposure to low ADEP concentrations, nucleoids of B. subtilis started to disorganize and upon compound removal many cells failed to re-organize nucleoids, re-initiate cytokinesis and consequently died. Survival versus cell death of filamentous cells attempting recovery depended on the timing of completion of new septa in relation to the loss of cell envelope integrity. We show that the potential to recover after ADEP removal depends on the antibiotic concentration as well as the treatment duration. When exposed to ADEP at concentrations well above the MIC, biomass production ceased rapidly as did the potential to recover. In time-kill studies both long-time exposure to low ADEP levels as well as short-time exposure to high concentrations proved highly effective, while intermittent concentrations and time frames were not. We here provide new insights into the antimicrobial activity of ADEP antibiotics and the consequences of dosing and timing for bacterial physiology which should be considered in view of a potential therapeutic application of ADEPs.
Keywords: Antibiotic acyldepsipeptides; Bacillus subtilis; Caseinolytic protease; MRSA; Staphylococcus aureus.
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