Publication Date



ACS Infectious Diseases


Fusobacterium nucleatum, a pathobiont inhabiting the oral cavity, contributes to opportunistic diseases, such as periodontal diseases and gastrointestinal cancers, which involve microbiota imbalance. Broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents, while effective against F. nucleatum infections, can exacerbate dysbiosis. This necessitates the discovery of more targeted narrow-spectrum antimicrobial agents. We therefore investigated the potential for the fusobacterial enoyl-ACP reductase II (ENR II) isoenzyme FnFabK (C4N14_ 04250) as a narrow-spectrum drug target. ENRs catalyze the rate-limiting step in the bacterial fatty acid synthesis pathway. Bioinformatics revealed that of the four distinct bacterial ENR isoforms, F. nucleatum specifically encodes FnFabK. Genetic studies revealed that fabK was indispensable for F. nucleatum growth, as the gene could not be deleted, and silencing of its mRNA inhibited growth under the test conditions. Remarkably, exogenous fatty acids failed to rescue growth inhibition caused by the silencing of fabK. Screening of synthetic phenylimidazole analogues of a known FabK inhibitor identified an inhibitor (i.e., 681) of FnFabK enzymatic activity and F. nucleatum growth, with an IC50 of 2.1 μM (1.0 μg/mL) and a MIC of 0.4 μg/mL, respectively. Exogenous fatty acids did not attenuate the activity of 681 against F. nucleatum. Furthermore, FnFabK was confirmed as the intracellular target of 681 based on the overexpression of FnFabK shifting MICs and 681-resistant mutants having amino acid substitutions in FnFabK or mutations in other genetic loci affecting fatty acid biosynthesis. 681 had minimal activity against a range of commensal flora, and it was less active against streptococci in physiologic fatty acids. Taken together, FnFabK is an essential enzyme that is amenable to drug targeting for the discovery and development of narrow-spectrum antimicrobial agents.


F. nucleatum pathogen, narrow-spectrum antimicrobial, gene silencing, fatty acid biosynthesis



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