Pilicides and Curlicides : Design, synthesis, and evaluation of novel antibacterial agents targeting bacterial virulence

Abstract: New strategies are needed to counter the growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. One such strategy is to design compounds that target bacterial virulence, which could work separately or in concert with conventional bacteriostatic or bactericidal antibiotics. Pilicides are a class of compounds based on a ring-fused 2-pyridone scaffold that target bacterial virulence by blocking the chaperone/usher pathway in E. coli and thereby inhibit the assembly of pili. This thesis describes the design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of compounds based on the pilicide scaffold with the goal of improving the pilicides and expanding their utility. Synthetic pathways have been developed to enable the introduction of substituents at the C-2 position of the pilicide scaffold. Biological evaluation of these compounds demonstrated that some C-2 substituents give rise to significant increases in potency. X-ray crystallography was used to elucidate the structural basis of this improved biological activity. Furthermore, improved methods for the preparation of oxygen-analogues and C-7 substituted derivatives of the pilicide scaffold have been developed. These new methods were used in combination with existing strategies to decorate the pilicide scaffold as part of a multivariate design approach to improve the pilicides and generate structure activity relationships (SARs). Fluorescent pilicides were prepared using a strategy where selected substituents were replaced with fluorophores having similar physicochemical properties as the original substituents. Many of the synthesized fluorescent compounds displayed potent pilicide activities and can thus be used to study the complex interactions between pilicide and bacteria. For example, when E. coli was treated with fluorescent pilicides, it was found that the compounds were not uniformly distributed throughout the bacterial population, suggesting that the compounds are primarily associated to bacteria with specific properties. Finally, by studying compounds designed to inhibit the aggregation of Aβ, it was found that some compounds based on the pilicide scaffold inhibit the formation of the functional bacterial amyloid fibers known as curli; these compounds are referred to as 'curlicides'. Some of the curlicides also prevent the formation of pili and thus exhibit dual pilicide-curlicide activity. The potential utility of such 'dual-action' compounds was highlighted by a study of one of the more potent dual pilicide-curlicides in a murine UTI model were the compound was found to significantly attenuate virulence in vivo.