The Journal of antibiotics

Potential novel antibiotics from HTS targeting the virulence-regulating transcription factor, VirF, from Shigella flexneri.

PMID 24549153


VirF is an AraC-type transcriptional regulator responsible for activating the transcription of virulence genes required for the intracellular invasion and cell-to-cell spread of Shigella flexneri. Gene disruption studies have validated VirF as a potential target for an anti-virulence therapy to treat shigellosis by determining that VirF is necessary for virulence, but not required for bacterial viability. Using a bacteria-based, β-galactosidase reporter assay we completed a high-throughput screening (HTS) campaign monitoring VirF activity in the presence of over 140,000 small molecules. From our screening campaign, we identified five lead compounds to pursue in tissue culture-based invasion and cell-to-cell spread assays, and toxicity screens. Our observations of activity in these models for infection have validated our approach of targeting virulence regulation and have allowed us to identify a promising chemical scaffold from our HTS for hit-to-lead development. Interestingly, differential effects on invasion versus cell-to-cell spread suggest that the compounds' efficacies may depend, in part, on the specific promoter that VirF is recognizing.