Identification of an antimicrobial agent effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus persisters using a fluorescence-based screening strategy

Wooseong Kim, Annie L. Conery, Rajmohan Rajamuthiah, Beth Burgwyn Fuchs, Frederick M. Ausubel, Eleftherios Mylonakis

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47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Persisters are a subpopulation of normal bacterial cells that show tolerance to conventional antibiotics. Persister cells are responsible for recalcitrant chronic infections and new antibiotics effective against persisters would be a major development in the treatment of these infections. Using the reporter dye SYTOX Green that only stains cells with permeabilized membranes, we developed a fluorescence-based screening assay in a 384-well format for identifying compounds that can kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) persisters. The assay proved robust and suitable for high throughput screening (Z-factor: >0.7). In screening a library of hits from a previous screen, which identified compounds that had the ability to block killing of the nematode Caenorhabditis by MRSA, we discovered that the low molecular weight compound NH125, a bacterial histidine kinase inhibitor, kills MRSA persisters by causing cell membrane permeabilization, and that 5 μg/mL of the compound can kill all cells to the limit of detection in a 108 CFU/mL culture of MRSA persisters within 3h. Furthermore, NH125 disrupts 50% of established MRSA biofilms at 20 μg/mL and completely eradicates biofilms at 160 μg/mL. Our results suggest that the SYTOX Green screening assay is suitable for large-scale projects to identify small molecules effective against MRSA persisters and should be easily adaptable to a broad range of pathogens that form persisters. Since NH125 has strong bactericidal properties against MRSA persisters and high selectivity to bacteria, we believe NH125 is a good anti-MRSA candidate drug that should be further evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0127640
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume10
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Jun 2015

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