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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Oct;86(2):367-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08199.x. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Meropenem inhibits D,D-carboxypeptidase activity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Tuberculosis Research Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Carbapenems such as meropenem are being investigated for their potential therapeutic utility against highly drug-resistant tuberculosis. These β-lactams target the transpeptidases that introduce interpeptide cross-links into bacterial peptidoglycan thereby controlling rigidity of the bacterial envelope. Treatment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) with the β-lactamase inhibitor clavulanate together with meropenem resulted in rapid, polar, cell lysis releasing cytoplasmic contents. In Mtb it has been previously demonstrated that 3-3 cross-linkages [involving two diaminopimelate (DAP) molecules] predominate over 4-3 cross-linkages (involving one DAP and one D-alanine) in stationary-phase cells. We purified and analysed peptidoglycan from Mtb and found that 3-3 cross-linkages predominate throughout all growth phases and the ratio of 4-3/3-3 linkages does not vary significantly under any growth condition. Meropenem treatment was accompanied by a dramatic accumulation of unlinked pentapeptide stems with no change in the tetrapeptide pools, suggesting that meropenem inhibits both a D,D-carboxypeptidase and an L,D-transpeptidase. We purified a candidate D,D-carboxypeptidase DacB2 and showed that meropenem indeed directly inhibits this enzyme by forming a stable adduct at the enzyme active site. These results suggest that the rapid lysis of meropenem-treated cells is the result of synergistically inhibiting the transpeptidases that introduce 3,3-cross-links while simultaneously limiting the pool of available substrates available for cross-linking.

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