Development of an antivirulence drug against Streptococcus mutans: repression of biofilm formation, acid tolerance, and competence by a histidine kinase inhibitor, walkmycin C.

Research paper by Yoko Y Eguchi, Norihiro N Kubo, Hiroko H Matsunaga, Masayuki M Igarashi, Ryutaro R Utsumi

Indexed on: 02 Feb '11Published on: 02 Feb '11Published in: Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy


Two-component signal transduction systems (TCSs) in prokaryotes often regulate gene clusters that induce pathogenicity, and thus they have frequently been proposed as potential drug targets for attenuating the virulence of pathogens. The pathogenic potential of Streptococcus mutans, the major etiological pathogen of dental caries, is also regulated by its TCSs. The object of this study was to evaluate the effect of a histidine kinase (HK) inhibitor against two major virulence factors of S. mutans: biofilm formation and acid tolerance. Walkmycin C (WKM C), an HK inhibitor isolated from the screening of inhibitors against WalK HK in Bacillus subtilis, inhibited the in vitro autophosphorylation activity of three purified S. mutans HKs, i.e., VicK, CiaH, and LiaS. Although S. mutans does not have any essential HK but only an essential response regulator, VicR, WKM C showed an MIC of 6.25 μg/ml. This inhibitory effect of WKM C suggests that blocking the autophosphorylation of multiple HKs may inhibit phosphotransfer to VicR from VicK and other HKs. When WKM C was added at sub-MIC levels, the cells formed abnormal biofilms and also showed a defect in competence. When the cells were pretreated with WKM C, an increase in acid sensitivity was observed. Our results show that WKM C represses two pathogenic phenotypes of S. mutans, indicating the possibility of developing histidine kinase inhibitors into antivirulence drugs.