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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 13;108(37):15378-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1109208108. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Metabolic basis for the differential susceptibility of Gram-positive pathogens to fatty acid synthesis inhibitors.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


The rationale for the pursuit of bacterial type 2 fatty acid synthesis (FASII) as a target for antibacterial drug discovery in Gram-positive organisms is being debated vigorously based on their ability to incorporate extracellular fatty acids. The regulation of FASII by extracellular fatty acids was examined in Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, representing two important groups of pathogens. Both bacteria use the same enzymatic tool kit for the conversion of extracellular fatty acids to acyl-acyl carrier protein, elongation, and incorporation into phospholipids. Exogenous fatty acids completely replace the endogenous fatty acids in S. pneumoniae but support only 50% of phospholipid synthesis in S. aureus. Fatty acids overcame FASII inhibition in S. pneumoniae but not in S. aureus. Extracellular fatty acids strongly suppress malonyl-CoA levels in S. pneumoniae but not in S. aureus, showing a feedback regulatory system in S. pneumoniae that is absent in S. aureus. Fatty acids overcame either a biochemical or a genetic block at acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) in S. aureus, confirming that regulation at the ACC step is the key difference between these two species. Bacteria that possess a stringent biochemical feedback inhibition of ACC and malonyl-CoA formation triggered by environmental fatty acids are able to circumvent FASII inhibition. However, if exogenous fatty acids do not suppress malonyl-CoA formation, FASII inhibitors remain effective in the presence of fatty acid supplements.

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