ConspectusAntibiotics are the cornerstone of modern healthcare. The 20th century discovery of sulfonamides and β-lactam antibiotics altered human society immensely. Simple bacterial infections were no longer a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, and antibiotic prophylaxis greatly reduced the risk of infection from surgery. The current healthcare system requires effective antibiotics to function. However, antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming increasingly prevalent, threatening the emergence of a postantibiotic era. To prevent this public health crisis, antibiotics with novel modes of action are needed. Currently available antibiotics target just a few cellular processes to exert their activity: DNA, RNA, protein, and cell wall biosynthesis. Bacterial central metabolism is underexploited, offering a wealth of potential new targets that can be pursued toward expanding the armamentarium against microbial infections.Discovered in 1997 as the first enzyme in the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway, 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) synthase is a thiamine diphosphate (ThDP)-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the decarboxylative condensation of pyruvate and d-glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (d-GAP) to form DXP. This five-carbon metabolite feeds into three separate essential pathways for bacterial central metabolism: ThDP synthesis, pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) synthesis, and the MEP pathway for isoprenoid synthesis. While it has long been identified as a target for the development of antimicrobial agents, limited progress has been made toward developing selective inhibitors of the enzyme.This Account highlights advances from our lab over the past decade to understand this important and unique enzyme. Unlike all other known ThDP-dependent enzymes, DXP synthase uses a random-sequential mechanism that requires the formation of a ternary complex prior to decarboxylation of the lactyl-ThDP intermediate. Its large active site accommodates a variety of acceptor substrates, lending itself to a number of alternative activities, such as the production of α-hydroxy ketones, hydroxamates, amides, acetolactate, and peracetate. Knowledge gained from mechanistic and substrate-specificity studies has guided the development of selective inhibitors with antibacterial activity and provides a biochemical foundation toward understanding DXP synthase function in bacterial cells. Although it is a promising drug target, the centrality of DXP synthase in bacterial metabolism imparts specific challenges to assessing antibacterial activity of DXP synthase inhibitors, and the susceptibility of most bacteria to current DXP synthase inhibitors is remarkably culture-medium-dependent. Despite these challenges, the study of DXP synthase is poised to reveal the role of DXP synthase in bacterial metabolic adaptability during infection, ultimately providing a more complete picture of how inhibiting this crucial enzyme can be used to develop novel antibiotics.
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