Avermectins are macrocyclic lactones with anthelmintic activity. Recently, they were found to be effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which accounts for one third of the worldwide deaths from antimicrobial resistance. However, their anti-mycobacterial mode of action remains to be elucidated. The activity of selamectin was determined against a panel of M. tuberculosis mutants. Two strains carrying mutations in DprE1, the decaprenylphosphoryl-β-D-ribose oxidase involved in the synthesis of mycobacterial arabinogalactan, were more susceptible to selamectin. Biochemical assays against the Mycobacterium smegmatis DprE1 protein confirmed this finding, and docking studies predicted a binding site in a loop that included Leu275. Sequence alignment revealed variants in this position among mycobacterial species, with the size and hydrophobicity of the residue correlating with their MIC values; M. smegmatis DprE1 variants carrying these point mutations validated the docking predictions. However, the correlation was not confirmed when M. smegmatis mutant strains were constructed and MIC phenotypic assays performed. Likewise, metabolic labeling of selamectin-treated M. smegmatis and M. tuberculosis cells with14C-labeled acetate did not reveal the expected lipid profile associated with DprE1 inhibition. Together, our results confirm the in vitro interactions of selamectin and DprE1 but suggest that selamectin could be a multi-target anti-mycobacterial compound.
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