Metallo-β-lactamases in the Age of Multidrug Resistance: From Structure and Mechanism to Evolution, Dissemination, and Inhibitor Design

Chem Rev. 2021 Jul 14;121(13):7957-8094. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.1c00138. Epub 2021 Jun 15.


Antimicrobial resistance is one of the major problems in current practical medicine. The spread of genes coding for resistance determinants among bacteria challenges the use of approved antibiotics, narrowing the options for treatment. Resistance to carbapenems, last resort antibiotics, is a major concern. Metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs) hydrolyze carbapenems, penicillins, and cephalosporins, becoming central to this problem. These enzymes diverge with respect to serine-β-lactamases by exhibiting a different fold, active site, and catalytic features. Elucidating their catalytic mechanism has been a big challenge in the field that has limited the development of useful inhibitors. This review covers exhaustively the details of the active-site chemistries, the diversity of MBL alleles, the catalytic mechanism against different substrates, and how this information has helped developing inhibitors. We also discuss here different aspects critical to understand the success of MBLs in conferring resistance: the molecular determinants of their dissemination, their cell physiology, from the biogenesis to the processing involved in the transit to the periplasm, and the uptake of the Zn(II) ions upon metal starvation conditions, such as those encountered during an infection. In this regard, the chemical, biochemical and microbiological aspects provide an integrative view of the current knowledge of MBLs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors / chemical synthesis
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • beta-Lactamases / chemistry*
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism*


  • beta-Lactamase Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactamases