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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1979 May;15(5):696-705.

Phosphonopeptides as antibacterial agents: mechanism of action of alaphosphin.


The novel antibacterial peptide mimetic alaphosphin (l-alanyl-l-1-aminoethylphosphonic acid) selectively inhibited peptidoglycan biosynthesis in both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. It induced accumulation of uridine diphosphate-N-acetyl-muramyl-tripeptide in gram-positive organisms and significantly reduced the intracellular pool levels of d-alanine. Alaphosphin was actively transported into bacterial cells by stereospecific peptide permeases and was subsequently hydrolyzed by intracellular aminopeptidases to yield l-1-aminoethylphosphonic acid. This alanine mimetic rapidly accumulated inside susceptible cells to yield a concentration which was 100- to 1,000-fold in excess of that of the precursor peptide in the surrounding medium. In the case of susceptible gram-negative organisms, it was shown that 1-aminoethylphosphonic acid was incorporated into a metabolite which was tentatively identified as uridine diphosphate-N-acetylmuramyl-aminoethylphosphonate. The primary intracellular target site of 1-aminoethylphosphonic acid was alanine racemase (EC, which was reversibly and competitively inhibited in the gram-negative organisms Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and irreversibly inhibited in a time-dependent manner in the gram-positive organisms Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus faecalis. A secondary target site could be uridine diphosphate-N-acetylmuramyl-l-alanine synthetase [EC]. The mechanism of action of alaphosphin may be regarded as involving at least three stages: (i) active transport by peptide permeases; (ii) intracellular peptidase cleavage; and (iii) action of l-1-aminoethylphosphonate on alanine racemase.

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