Letter

Nature 458, 83-86 (5 March 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07772; Received 7 July 2008; Accepted 13 January 2009

There is a Brief Communication Arising (21 January 2010) associated with this document.

Type II fatty acid synthesis is not a suitable antibiotic target for Gram-positive pathogens

Sophie Brinster1,2, Gilles Lamberet3, Bart Staels4, Patrick Trieu-Cuot5, Alexandra Gruss3 & Claire Poyart1,2,5,6

  1. Institut Cochin, Université Paris Descartes, CNRS (UMR 8104), Paris, France
  2. INSERM, U567, Paris, France
  3. INRA, UR888, Unité Bactéries Lactiques et Pathogènes Opportunistes, F-78350, Jouy en Josas, France
  4. Institut Pasteur de Lille, INSERM UMR545, Université Lille 2, Lille, France
  5. Institut Pasteur, Unité de Biologie des Bactéries Pathogènes à Gram Positif, URA CNRS 2172, Paris, France
  6. Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Centre National de Référence des Streptocoques, Hôpital Cochin, Paris, France

Correspondence to: Alexandra Gruss3Claire Poyart1,2,5,6 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.P. (Email: claire.poyart@cch.aphp.fr) or A.G. (Email: alexandra.gruss@jouy.inra.fr).

Antimicrobial drugs targeting the reportedly essential type II fatty acid synthesis (FASII) pathway1, 2, 3, 4, 5 have been recently acclaimed for their efficacy against infections caused by multiresistant Gram-positive bacteria6, 7, 8. Our findings show that the strategy for antibiotic development based on FASII pathway targets is fundamentally flawed by the fact that exogenous fatty acids fully bypass inhibition of this pathway in both in vitro and in vivo conditions. We demonstrate that major Gram-positive pathogens—such as streptococci, pneumococci, enterococci and staphylococci—overcome drug-induced FASII pathway inhibition when supplied with exogenous fatty acids, and human serum proves to be a highly effective source of fatty acids. For opportunist pathogen Streptococcus agalactiae, growth in serum leads to an overall decrease of FASII gene expression. No antibiotic inhibitor could have a stronger effect than the inactivation of the target gene, so we challenged the role of FASII using deletion mutants. Our results unequivocally show that the FASII target enzymes are dispensable in vivo during S. agalactiae infection. The results of this study largely compromise the use of FASII-based antimicrobials for treating sepsis caused by Gram-positive pathogens.

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