Screen of FDA-approved drug library identifies maprotiline, an antibiofilm and antivirulence compound with QseC sensor-kinase dependent activity in Francisella novicida.

PMID 26155740


Development of new therapeutics against Select Agents such as Francisella is critical preparation in the event of bioterrorism. Testing FDA-approved drugs for this purpose may yield new activities unrelated to their intended purpose and may hasten the discovery of new therapeutics. A library of 420 FDA-approved drugs was screened for antibiofilm activity against a model organism for human tularemia, Francisella (F.) novicida, excluding drugs that significantly inhibited growth. The initial screen was based on the 2-component system (TCS) dependent biofilm effect, thus, the QseC dependence of maprotiline anti-biofilm action was demonstrated. By comparing their FDA-approved uses, chemical structures, and other properties of active drugs, toremifene and polycyclic antidepressants maprotiline and chlorpromazine were identified as being highly active against F. novicida biofilm formation. Further down-selection excluded toremifene for its membrane active activity and chlorpromazine for its high antimicrobial activity. The mode of action of maprotiline against F. novicida was sought. It was demonstrated that maprotiline was able to significantly down-regulate the expression of the virulence factor IglC, encoded on the Francisella Pathogenicity Island (FPI), suggesting that maprotiline is exerting an effect on bacterial virulence. Further studies showed that maprotiline significantly rescued F. novicida infected wax worm larvae. In vivo studies demonstrated that maprotiline treatment could prolong time to disease onset and survival in F. novicida infected mice. These results suggest that an FDA-approved drug such as maprotiline has the potential to combat Francisella infection as an antivirulence agent, and may have utility in combination with antibiotics.