Bacterial Efflux Pump Modulators Prevent Bacterial Growth in Macrophages and Under Broth Conditions that Mimic the Host Environment. Journal Article uri icon



  • New approaches for combatting microbial infections are needed. One strategy for disrupting pathogenesis involves developing compounds that interfere with bacterial virulence. A critical molecular determinant of virulence for Gram-negative bacteria are efflux pumps of the resistance-nodulation-division (RND) family, which includes AcrAB-TolC. We previously identified small molecules that bind AcrB, inhibit AcrAB-TolC, and do not appear to damage membranes. These efflux pump modulators (EPMs) were discovered in an in-cell screening platform called SAFIRE (Screen for Anti-infectives using Fluorescence microscopy of IntracellulaR Enterobacteriaceae). SAFIRE identifies compounds that disrupt the growth of a Gram-negative human pathogen, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) in macrophages. We used medicinal chemistry to iteratively design ~200 EPM35 analogs and test them for activity in SAFIRE, generating compounds with nanomolar potency. Analogs were demonstrated to bind AcrB in a substrate binding pocket by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Despite having amphipathic structures, the EPM analogs do not disrupt membrane voltage, as monitored by FtsZ localization to the cell septum. The EPM analogs had little effect on bacterial growth in standard Mueller Hinton Broth. However, under broth conditions that mimic the micro-environment of the macrophage phagosome, acrAB is required for growth, the EPM analogs are bacteriostatic, and increase the potency of antibiotics. These data suggest that under macrophage-like conditions the EPM analogs prevent the export of a toxic bacterial metabolite(s) through AcrAB-TolC. Thus, compounds that bind AcrB could disrupt infection by specifically interfering with the export of bacterial toxic metabolites, host defense factors, and/or antibiotics.

publication date

  • September 20, 2023

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • October 12, 2023 8:38 AM

Full Author List

  • Allgood SC; Su C-C; Crooks AL; Meyer CT; Zhou B; Betterton MD; Barbachyn MR; Yu EW; Detweiler CS

author count

  • 9

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2692-8205