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Molecular Features of Cephalosporins Important for Activity against Antimicrobial-Resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae

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posted on 03.02.2021, 14:59 authored by Jonathan M. Turner, Kristie L. Connolly, Kate E. Aberman, Joseph C. Fonseca, Avinash Singh, Ann E. Jerse, Robert A. Nicholas, Christopher Davies
The increasing prevalence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains exhibiting decreased susceptibility to extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs) presents a challenge for the successful treatment of gonorrhea infections. To address this challenge, we evaluated a panel of 23 cephalosporins against penicillin-binding protein 2 (PBP2) from the ESC-resistant (ESCR) N. gonorrhoeae strain H041 to determine which molecular features are important for antimicrobial activity. Structure–activity relationships (SARs) developed from acylation rate constants against PBP2 and antimicrobial susceptibilities against the H041 strain of N. gonorrhoeae, and interpreted against docking models, reveal that cephalosporins possessing large, lipophilic R1 side chains and electronegative R2 side chains with planar groups are associated with higher acylation rates against PBP2, but also that these same amphipathic features can lower antimicrobial activity. Based on these studies, we tested cefoperazone, one of the most effective ESCs for targeting PBP2, in the female mouse model infected with H041 and showed that it was equally or more effective than ceftriaxone or gentamicin for clearing infections. Taken together, our results reveal that two U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved agents (cefoperazone, ceftaroline) and one FDA-qualified infectious disease product (ceftobiprole) have potential as first-line treatments for gonorrhea and provide a framework for the future design of cephalosporins with improved activity against ESC-resistant N. gonorrhoeae.