Antimicrobial Prodrug Activation by the Staphylococcal Glyoxalase GloB

Marwa O. Mikati, Justin J. Miller, Damon M. Osbourn, Yasaman Barekatain, Naomi Ghebremichael, Ishaan T. Shah, Carey Ann D. Burnham, Kenneth M. Heidel, Victoria C. Yan, Florian L. Muller, Cynthia S. Dowd, Rachel L. Edwards, Audrey R. Odom John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the rising prevalence of multidrug resistance, there is an urgent need to develop novel antibiotics. Many putative antibiotics demonstrate promising in vitro potency but fail in vivo due to poor drug-like qualities (e.g., serum half-life, oral absorption, solubility, and toxicity). These drug-like properties can be modified through the addition of chemical protecting groups, creating "prodrugs"that are activated prior to target inhibition. Lipophilic prodrugging techniques, including the attachment of a pivaloyloxymethyl group, have garnered attention for their ability to increase cellular permeability by masking charged residues and the relative ease of the chemical prodrugging process. Unfortunately, pivaloyloxymethyl prodrugs are rapidly activated by human sera, rendering any membrane permeability qualities absent during clinical treatment. Identification of the bacterial prodrug activation pathway(s) will allow for the development of host-stable and microbe-targeted prodrug therapies. Here, we use two zoonotic staphylococcal species, Staphylococcus schleiferi and S. pseudintermedius, to establish the mechanism of carboxy ester prodrug activation. Using a forward genetic screen, we identify a conserved locus in both species encoding the enzyme hydroxyacylglutathione hydrolase (GloB), whose loss-of-function confers resistance to carboxy ester prodrugs. We enzymatically characterize GloB and demonstrate that it is a functional glyoxalase II enzyme, which has the capacity to activate carboxy ester prodrugs. As GloB homologues are both widespread and diverse in sequence, our findings suggest that GloB may be a useful mechanism for developing species-or genus-level prodrug targeting strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3064-3075
Number of pages12
JournalACS Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 13 2020


  • Staphylococcus
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • drug development
  • esterase
  • glyoxalase
  • prodrug

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