Background: High level resistance to carbapenem antibiotics in gram negative bacteria such as Bacteroides fragilis is caused, in part, by expression of a wide-spectrum metallo-beta-lactamase that hydrolyzes the drug to an inactive form. Co-administration of metallo-beta-lactamase inhibitors to resistant bacteria is expected to restore the antibacterial activity of carbapenems.
Results: Biphenyl tetrazoles (BPTs) are a structural class of potent competitive inhibitors of metallo-beta-lactamase identified through screening and predicted using molecular modeling of the enzyme structure. The X-ray crystal structure of the enzyme bound to the BPT L-159,061 shows that the tetrazole moiety of the inhibitor interacts directly with one of the two zinc atoms in the active site, replacing a metal-bound water molecule. Inhibition of metallo-beta-lactamase by BPTs in vitro correlates well with antibiotic sensitization of resistant B. fragilis.
Conclusions: BPT inhibitors can sensitize a resistant B. fragilis clinical isolate expressing metallo-beta-lactamase to the antibiotics imipenem or penicillin G but not to rifampicin.