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A natural inhibitor of diapophytoene desaturase attenuates methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) pathogenicity and overcomes drug-resistance.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: At present, the inhibition of staphyloxanthin biosynthesis has emerged as a prominent strategy in combating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. Nonetheless, there remains a limited understanding regarding the bio-structural characteristics of staphyloxanthin biosynthetic enzymes, as well as the molecular mechanisms underlying the interaction between inhibitors and proteins. Furthermore, the functional scope of these inhibitors is relatively narrow.

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: In this study, we address these limitations by harnessing the power of deep learning techniques to construct the 3D structure of diapophytoene desaturase (CrtN). We perform efficient virtual screening and unveil alnustone as a potent inhibitor of CrtN. Further investigations employing molecular modelling, site-directed mutagenesis and biolayer interferometry (BLI) confirmed that alnustone binds to the catalytic active site of CrtN. Transcriptomic analysis reveals that alnustone significantly down-regulates genes associated with staphyloxanthin, histidine and peptidoglycan biosynthesis.

KEY RESULTS: Under the effects of alnustone, MRSA strains exhibit enhanced sensitivity to various antibiotics and the host immune system, accompanied by increased cell membrane permeability. In a mouse model of systemic MRSA infection, the combination of alnustone and antibiotics exhibited a significant therapeutic effect, leading to reduced bacterial colony counts and attenuated pathological damage.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Alnustone, as a natural inhibitor targeting CrtN, exhibits outstanding antibacterial properties that are single-targeted yet multifunctional. This finding provides a novel strategy and theoretical basis for the development of drugs targeting staphyloxanthin producing bacteria.

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