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Combatting antimicrobial resistance via the cysteine biosynthesis pathway in bacterial pathogens

, Keely E.A Oldham, Jack McGarvie, Emma J Walker
Published: 23 September 2022

Abstract: Antibiotics are the cornerstone of modern medicine and agriculture, and rising antibiotic resistance is one the biggest threats to global health and food security. Identifying new and different druggable targets for the development of new antibiotics, is absolutely crucial to overcome resistance. Adjuvant strategies that either enhance the activity of existing antibiotics or improve clearance by the host immune system provide another mechanism to combat antibiotic resistance. Targeting a combination of essential and non-essential enzymes that play key roles in bacterial metabolism, is a promising strategy to develop new antimicrobials and adjuvants, respectively. The enzymatic synthesis of L-cysteine is one such strategy. Cysteine plays a key role in proteins and is crucial for the synthesis of many biomolecules important for defense against the host immune system. Cysteine synthesis is a two-step process, catalyzed by two enzymes. Serine acetyltransferase (CysE) catalyzes the first step to synthesize the pathway intermediate O-acetylserine, and O-acetylserine sulfhydrylase (CysK/CysM) catalyzes the second step using sulfide or thiosulfate to produce cysteine. Disruption of the cysteine biosynthesis pathway results in dysregulated sulfur metabolism, altering the redox state of the cell leading to decreased fitness, enhanced susceptibility to oxidative stress and increased sensitivity to antibiotics. In this review we summarize the structure and mechanism of characterized CysE and CysK/CysM enzymes from a variety of bacterial pathogens, and the evidence that supports targeting these enzymes for the development of new antimicrobials or antibiotic adjuvants. In addition, we explore and compare compounds identified thus far that target these enzymes.
Keywords: serine acetyltransferase / CysE / O-acetylserine sulfhydrylase / CysK / CysM / cysteine synthesis

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