Lipopolysaccharide as an antibiotic target.

Biochimica et biophysica acta. Molecular cell research(2023)

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Gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii are amongst the highest priority drug-resistant pathogens, for which new antibiotics are urgently needed. Whilst antibiotic drug development is inherently challenging, this is particularly true for Gram-negative bacteria due to the presence of the outer membrane, a highly selective permeability barrier that prevents the ingress of several classes of antibiotic. This selectivity is largely due to an outer leaflet composed of the glycolipid lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is essential for the viability of almost all Gram-negative bacteria. This essentiality, coupled with the conservation of the synthetic pathway across species and recent breakthroughs in our understanding of transport and membrane homeostasis has made LPS an attractive target for novel antibiotic drug development. Several different targets have been explored and small molecules developed that show promising activity in vitro. However, these endeavours have met limited success in clinical testing and the polymyxins, discovered more than 70 years ago, remain the only LPS-targeting drugs to enter the clinic thus far. In this review, we will discuss efforts to develop therapeutic inhibitors of LPS synthesis and transport and the reasons for limited success, and explore new developments in understanding polymyxin mode of action and the identification of new analogues with reduced toxicity and enhanced activity.
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