Because of the scanty pipeline of antibiotics newly obtained from nature, chemical modification of established drugs is one of the major streams of current antibacterial research. Intuitive and easy-to-use assays are critical for identifying drug candidates with novel modes of action. In this study, we demonstrated that metabolic fluorescent staining of growing cell walls is a powerful tool for mode-of-action analyses of antibiotics using Streptococcus pyogenes. A set of major cell-wall-inhibiting antibiotics (bacitracin, d-cycloserine, flavomycin, oxacillin, ramoplanin, and vancomycin) was employed to validate the potential of the assay. The mechanistic differences of these antibiotics were successfully observed. For instance, d-cycloserine treatment induced fluorescently stained, excessive peripheral cell wall growth. This may indicate that the switch from the peripheral growth stage to the succeeding septal growth was disturbed by the treatment. We then applied this assay to analyze a series of vancomycin derivatives. The assay was sufficiently sensitive to detect the effects of single-site chemical modification of vancomycin on its modes of action. This metabolic fluorescent labeling method is easy to perform, especially because it does not require radiolabeled substrates. Thus, it is suitable for the preliminary evaluation of antibacterial mechanisms during antibacterial research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas