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Inhibition of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Glutamine Synthetase as a Novel Antibiotic Strategy against Tuberculosis: Demonstration of Efficacy In Vivo

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Tuberculosis remains one of humankind's greatest killers, and new therapeutic strategies are needed to combat the causative agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is rapidly developing resistance to conventional antibiotics. Using the highly demanding guinea pig model of pulmonary tuberculosis, we have investigated the feasibility of inhibiting M. tuberculosis glutamine synthetase (GS), an enzyme that plays a key role in both nitrogen metabolism and cell wall biosynthesis, as a novel antibiotic strategy. In guinea pigs challenged by aerosol with the highly virulent Erdman strain of M. tuberculosis, the GS inhibitor L-methionine-SR-sulfoximine (MSO) protected the animals against weight loss, a hallmark of tuberculosis, and against the growth of M. tuberculosis in the lungs and spleen; MSO reduced the CFU of M. tuberculosis at 10 weeks after challenge by approximately 0.7 log unit compared with that in control animals. MSO acted synergistically with isoniazid in protecting animals against weight loss and bacterial growth, reducing the CFU in the lungs and spleen by approximately 1.5 log units below the level seen with isoniazid alone. In the presence of ascorbate, which allows treatment with a higher dose, MSO was highly efficacious, reducing the CFU in the lungs and spleen by 2.5 log units compared with that in control animals. This study demonstrates that inhibition of M. tuberculosis GS is a feasible therapeutic strategy against this pathogen and supports the concept that M. tuberculosis enzymes involved in cell wall biosynthesis, including major secretory proteins, have potential as antibiotic targets.

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