Inhibition of Bacterial Virulence: Drug-Like Molecules Targeting the Salmonella enterica PhoP Response Regulator

Yat T. Tang, Rong Gao, James J. Havranek, Eduardo A. Groisman, Ann M. Stock, Garland R. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Two-component signal transduction (TCST) is the predominant signaling scheme used in bacteria to sense and respond to environmental changes in order to survive and thrive. A typical TCST system consists of a sensor histidine kinase to detect external signals and an effector response regulator to respond to external changes. In the signaling scheme, the histidine kinase phosphorylates and activates the response regulator, which functions as a transcription factor to modulate gene expression. One promising strategy toward antibacterial development is to target TCST regulatory systems, specifically the response regulators to disrupt the expression of genes important for virulence. In Salmonella enterica, the PhoQ/PhoP signal transduction system is used to sense and respond to low magnesium levels and regulates the expression for over 40 genes necessary for growth under these conditions, and more interestingly, genes that are important for virulence. In this study, a hybrid approach coupling computational and experimental methods was applied to identify drug-like compounds to target the PhoP response regulator. A computational approach of structure-based virtual screening combined with a series of biochemical and biophysical assays was used to test the predictability of the computational strategy and to characterize the mode of action of the compounds. Eight compounds from virtual screening inhibit the formation of the PhoP-DNA complex necessary for virulence gene regulation. This investigation served as an initial case study for targeting TCST response regulators to modulate the gene expression of a signal transduction pathway important for bacterial virulence. With the increasing resistance of pathogenic bacteria to current antibiotics, targeting TCST response regulators that control virulence is a viable strategy for the development of antimicrobial therapeutics with novel modes of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1017
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Biology and Drug Design
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Bacterial virulence
  • Docking
  • Drug discovery
  • Gram-negative pathogens
  • Molecular recognition
  • Protein-ligand interactions
  • Protein-protein interactions
  • Response regulators
  • Scoring
  • Structure-based drug design
  • Two-component signal transduction systems
  • Virtual screening


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