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08 2021 mBio

Inhibiting Type VI Secretion System Activity with a Biomimetic Peptide Designed To Target the Baseplate Wedge Complex.


Cherrak Y, Filella-Merce I, Schmidt V, Byrne D, Sgoluppi V, Chaiaheloudjou R, Betzi S, Morelli X, Nilges M, Pellarin R, Durand E


Human health is threatened by bacterial infections that are increasingly resistant to multiple drugs. A recently emerged strategy consists of disarming pathogenic bacteria by targeting and blocking their virulence factors. The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a widespread secretion nanomachine encoded and employed by pathogenic strains to establish their virulence process during host invasion. Given the conservation of T6SS in several human bacterial pathogens, the discovery of an effective broad-spectrum T6SS virulence blocker represents an attractive target for development of antivirulence therapies. Here, we identified and validated a protein-protein interaction interface, TssK-TssG, as a key factor in the assembly of the T6SS baseplate (BP) complex in the pathogen enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC). and biochemical studies revealed that the determinants of the interface are broadly conserved among pathogenic species, suggesting a role for this interface as a target for T6SS inhibition. Based on the high-resolution structure of the TssKFGE wedge complex, we rationally designed a biomimetic cyclic peptide (BCP) that blocks the assembly of the EAEC BP complex and inhibits the function of T6SS in bacterial cultures. Our BCP is the first compound completely designed from prior structural knowledge with anti-T6SS activity that can be used as a model to target human pathogens. New therapeutic options are urgently needed to fight drug-resistant and life-threatening infections. In contrast to antibiotics that inhibit the growth pathways of bacteria, the antivirulence strategy is a promising approach to disarm pathogens by interfering with bacterial virulence factors without exerting evolutionary pressure. The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is used by many pathogens, including members of the antibiotic-resistant ESKAPE bacteria (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp.), to establish their virulence during the invasion of the human host. Although the T6SS is undoubtedly involved in pathogenesis, strategies targeting this virulence factor are crucially lacking. Here, we used a combination of genetics, microbiology, biochemical, biophysics, and bioinformatics approaches to rationally design a biomimetic peptide that interferes with T6SS assembly and functioning. This study represents a novel proof of concept for an antivirulence strategy which aims to interfere with the assembly of the T6SS.

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