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DD-Ligases as a Potential Target for Antibiotics: Past, Present and Future

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DD-ligases catalyze the synthesis of the D-Ala-D-Ala and D-Ala-D-Ser dipeptides or the D-Ala-D-Lac depsipeptide in an early step of peptidoglycan synthesis. Their function is essential for bacterial growth and specific to bacteria, making them attractive targets for the development of novel antibiotics. This review examines the biochemical and structural features of these enzymes and presents the main families of inhibitors described so far. Over the last 20 years, 7 structures of DD-ligases have been solved by X-ray crystallography, giving a detailed view of the general topology of the active site and of the residues in the catalytic pocket that play a central role in substrate recognition. This has paved the way to the rational design of inhibitors, which can be classified as (i) analogues of substrates, (ii) analogues of the product of the reaction, (iii) analogues of the transition state, and (iv) original scaffolds discovered by screening or by rational computer-aided design. The three first strategies have led to molecules that are polar by nature and have therefore poor access to their cytosolic target. The fourth one is potentially most promising as it yields more diverse structures. The most active molecules show affinity constants in the μM range, but microbiological evaluation remains scarce (typical MIC 1-8 mg/L for the tested compounds). These data strongly suggest targeting DD-ligases is a promising approach for discovery of new antibiotics. Future research should, however, aim at finding more potent inhibitors endowed with the appropriate pharmacokinetic properties that ensure access to their intracellular target.

Keywords: D-cycloserine; DD-ligase; antibiotic; peptidoglycan; phosphinophosphate

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Pharmacologie cellulaire et moleculaire, UCL7370 avenue Mounier 73, 1200 Brussels, Belgium.

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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