Showdomycin produced by Streptomyces showdoensis ATCC 15227 is a C-nucleoside microbial natural product with antimicrobial and cytotoxic properties. The unique feature of showdomycin in comparison to other nucleosides is its maleimide base moiety, which has the distinct ability to alkylate nucleophilic thiol groups by a Michael addition reaction. In order to understand structure-activity relationships of showdomycin, we synthesized a series of derivatives with modifications in the maleimide ring at the site of alkylation to moderate its reactivity. The showdomycin congeners were designed to retain the planarity of the base ring system to allow Watson-Crick base pairing and preserve the nucleosidic character of the compounds. Consequently, we synthesized triphosphates of showdomycin derivatives and tested their activity against RNA polymerases. Bromo, methylthio, and ethylthio derivatives of showdomycin were incorporated into RNA by bacterial and mitochondrial RNA polymerases and somewhat less efficiently by the eukaryotic RNA polymerase II. Showdomycin derivatives acted as uridine mimics and delayed further extension of the RNA chain by multi-subunit, but not mitochondrial RNA polymerases. Bioactivity profiling indicated that the mechanism of action of ethylthioshowdomycin was altered, with approximately 4-fold reduction in both cytotoxicity against human embryonic kidney cells and antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli. In addition, the ethylthio derivative was not inactivated by medium components or influenced by addition of uridine in contrast to showdomycin. The results explain how both the maleimide ring and the nucleoside nature contribute to the bioactivity of showdomycin and demonstrates for the first time that the two activities can be separated.
Keywords: Antimicrobial compounds; C-nucleosides; RNA polymerase; Streptomyces; Transcription.
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