Integrating Network Pharmacology Approaches to Decipher the Multi-Target Pharmacological Mechanism of Microbial Biosurfactants as Novel Green Antimicrobials against Listeriosis

Antibiotics (Basel). 2022 Dec 20;12(1):5. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics12010005.


Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is a serious food-borne pathogen that can cause listeriosis, an illness caused by eating food contaminated with this pathogen. Currently, the treatment or prevention of listeriosis is a global challenge due to the resistance of bacteria against multiple commonly used antibiotics, thus necessitating the development of novel green antimicrobials. Scientists are increasingly interested in microbial surfactants, commonly known as "biosurfactants", due to their antimicrobial properties and eco-friendly nature, which make them an ideal candidate to combat a variety of bacterial infections. Therefore, the present study was designed to use a network pharmacology approach to uncover the active biosurfactants and their potential targets, as well as the signaling pathway(s) involved in listeriosis treatment. In the framework of this study, 15 biosurfactants were screened out for subsequent studies. Among 546 putative targets of biosurfactants and 244 targets of disease, 37 targets were identified as potential targets for treatment of L. monocytogenes infection, and these 37 targets were significantly enriched in a Gene Ontology (GO) analysis, which aims to identify those biological processes, cellular locations, and molecular functions that are impacted in the condition studied. The obtained results revealed several important biological processes, such as positive regulation of MAP kinase activity, protein kinase B signaling, ERK1 and ERK2 cascade, ERBB signaling pathway, positive regulation of protein serine/threonine kinase activity, and regulation of caveolin-mediated endocytosis. Several important KEGG pathways, such as the ERBBB signaling pathway, TH17 cell differentiation, HIF-1 signaling pathway, Yersinia infection, Shigellosis, and C-type lectin receptor signaling pathways, were identified. The protein-protein interaction analysis yielded 10 core targets (IL2, MAPK1, EGFR, PTPRC, TNF, ITGB1, IL1B, ERBB2, SRC, and mTOR). Molecular docking was used in the latter part of the study to verify the effectiveness of the active biosurfactants against the potential targets. Lastly, we found that a few highly active biosurfactants, namely lichenysin, iturin, surfactin, rhamnolipid, subtilisin, and polymyxin, had high binding affinities towards IL2, MAPK1, EGFR, PTPRC, TNF, ITGB1, IL1B, ERBB2, SRC, and mTOR, which may act as potential therapeutic targets for listeriosis. Overall, based on the integrated network pharmacology and docking analysis, we found that biosurfactants possess promising anti-listeriosis properties and explored the pharmacological mechanisms behind their effect, laying the groundwork for further research and development.

Keywords: Listeria monocytogenes; antimicrobial; biosurfactants; listeriosis; network pharmacology.