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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2011 Sep;55(9):4134-43. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00482-11. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

A high-throughput screening assay for inhibitors of bacterial motility identifies a novel inhibitor of the Na+-driven flagellar motor and virulence gene expression in Vibrio cholerae.

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  • 1Southern Research Institute, 2000 Ninth Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35205, USA.


Numerous bacterial pathogens, particularly those that colonize fast-flow areas in the bladder and gastrointestinal tract, require motility to establish infection and spread beyond the initially colonized tissue. Vibrio cholerae strains of serogroups O1 and O139, the causative agents of the diarrheal illness cholera, express a single polar flagellum powered by sodium motive force and require motility to colonize and spread along the small intestine. Therefore, motility may be an attractive target for small molecules that can prevent and/or block the infective process. In this study, we describe a high-throughput screening (HTS) assay to identify small molecules that selectively inhibit bacterial motility. The HTS assay was used to screen an ∼8,000-compound structurally diverse chemical library for inhibitors of V. cholerae motility. The screen identified a group of quinazoline-2,4-diamino analogs that completely suppressed motility without affecting the growth rate in broth. A further study on the effects of one analog, designated Q24DA, showed that it induces a flagellated but nonmotile (Mot(-)) phenotype and is specific for the Na(+)-driven flagellar motor of pathogenic Vibrio species. A mutation conferring phenamil-resistant motility did not eliminate inhibition of motility by Q24DA. Q24DA diminished the expression of cholera toxin and toxin-coregulated pilus as well as biofilm formation and fluid secretion in the rabbit ileal loop model. Furthermore, treatment of V. cholerae with Q24DA impacted additional phenotypes linked to Na(+) bioenergetics, such as the function of the primary Na(+) pump, Nqr, and susceptibility to fluoroquinolones. The above results clearly show that the described HTS assay is capable of identifying small molecules that specifically block bacterial motility. New inhibitors such as Q24DA may be instrumental in probing the molecular architecture of the Na(+)-driven polar flagellar motor and in studying the role of motility in the expression of other virulence factors.

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