Despite the urgent need for sustained development of novel antibacterial compounds to combat the drastic rise in antibiotic resistant and emerging bacterial infections, only a few clinically relevant antibacterial drugs have been recently developed. One of the bottlenecks impeding the development of novel antibacterial compounds is the identification of new enzymatic targets. The nutritionally essential amino acid anabolic pathways, for example lysine biosynthesis, provide an opportunity to explore the development of antibacterial compounds, since human genomes do not possess the genes necessary to synthesize these amino acids de novo. The diaminopimelate (DAP)/lysine (lys) anabolic pathways are attractive targets for antibacterial development since the penultimate lys precursor meso-DAP (m-DAP) is a cross-linking amino acid in the peptidoglycan (PG) cell wall of most Gram-negative bacteria and lys plays a similar role in the PG of most Gram-positive bacteria, in addition to its role as one of the 20 proteogenic amino acids. The L,L-diaminopimelate aminotransferase (DapL) pathway was recently identified as a novel variant of the DAP/lys anabolic pathways. The DapL pathway has been identified in the pathogenic bacteria belonging to the genus; Chlamydia, Leptospira, and Treponema. The dapL gene has been identified in the genomes of 381 or approximately 13% of the 2771 bacteria that have been sequenced, annotated and reposited in the NCBI database, as of May 23, 2014. The narrow distribution of the DapL pathway in the bacterial domain provides an opportunity for the development and or discovery of narrow spectrum antibacterial compounds.
The enzymes involved in synthesizing the bacterial cell wall are attractive targets for the design of antibacterial compounds, since this pathway is essential for bacteria and is absent in animals, particularly humans. A survey of the genome of a bacterium that belongs to the phylum Verrucomicrobia, the closest free-living relative to bacteria from the Chlamydiales phylum, shows genetic evidence that Verrucomicrobium spinosum possesses a novel fusion open reading frame (ORF) annotated by the locus tag (VspiD_010100018130). The ORF, which is predicted to encode the enzymes UDP-N-acetylenolpyruvoylglucosamine reductase (MurB) and UDP-N-acetylmuramate:l-alanine ligase (MurC) that are involved in the cytoplasmic steps of peptidoglycan biosynthesis, was cloned. In vivo analyses using functional complementation showed that the fusion gene was able to complement Escherichia coli murB and murC temperature sensitive mutants. The purified recombinant fusion enzyme (MurB/C Vs ) was shown to be endowed with UDP-N-acetylmuramate:l-alanine ligase activity. In vitro analyses demonstrated that the latter enzyme had a pH optimum of 9.0, a magnesium optimum of 10 mM and a temperature optimum of 44-46°C. Its apparent K m values for ATP, UDP-MurNAc, and l-alanine were 470, 90, and 25 μM, respectively. However, all attempts to demonstrate an in vitro UDP-N-acetylenolpyruvoylglucosamine reductase (MurB) activity were unsuccessful. Lastly, Hidden Markov Model-based similarity search and phylogenetic analysis revealed that this fusion enzyme could only be identified in specific lineages within the Verrucomicrobia phylum.