Lulworthinone: In Vitro Mode of Action Investigation of an Antibacterial Dimeric Naphthopyrone Isolated from a Marine Fungus
AuthorJuskewitz, Eric; Mishchenko, Ekaterina; Dubey, Vishesh Kumar; Jenssen, Marte; Jakubec, Martin; Rainsford, Philip; Isaksson, Johan Mattias; Andersen, Jeanette Hammer; Ericson, Johanna U
Treatment options for infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are rendered ineffective, and drug alternatives are needed—either from new chemical classes or drugs with new modes of action. Historically, natural products have been important contributors to drug discovery. In a recent study, the dimeric naphthopyrone lulworthinone produced by an obligate marine fungus in the family Lulworthiaceae was discovered. The observed potent antibacterial activity against Gram-positive bacteria, including several clinical methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates, prompted this follow-up mode of action investigation. This paper aimed to characterize the antibacterial mode of action (MOA) of lulworthinone by combining in vitro assays, NMR experiments and microscopy. The results point to a MOA targeting the bacterial membrane, leading to improper cell division. Treatment with lulworthinone induced an upregulation of genes responding to cell envelope stress in Bacillus subtilis. Analysis of the membrane integrity and membrane potential indicated that lulworthinone targets the bacterial membrane without destroying it. This was supported by NMR experiments using artificial lipid bilayers. Fluorescence microscopy revealed that lulworthinone affects cell morphology and impedes the localization of the cell division protein FtsZ. Surface plasmon resonance and dynamic light scattering assays showed that this activity is linked with the compound‘s ability to form colloidal aggregates. Antibacterial agents acting at cell membranes are of special interest, as the development of bacterial resistance to such compounds is deemed more difficult to occur.