Antibiotic susceptibility signatures identify potential antimicrobial targets in the Acinetobacter baumannii cell envelope
September 9, 2020
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Nat Commun. 2020; 11: 4522. Published online 2020 Sep 9. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18301-2
PMCID: PMC7481262 | PMID: 32908144 | doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.11.987479
Acinetobacter baumannii is an opportunistic pathogen that is a critical, high-priority target for new antibiotic development. Clearing of A. baumannii requires relatively high doses of antibiotics across the spectrum, primarily due to its protective cell envelope. Many of the proteins that support envelope integrity and modulate drug action are uncharacterized, largely because there is an absence of orthologs for several proteins that perform essential envelope-associated processes, impeding progress on this front. To identify targets that can synergize with current antibiotics, we performed an exhaustive analysis of A. baumannii mutants causing hypersensitivity to a multitude of antibiotic treatments. By examining mutants with antibiotic hypersensitivity profiles that parallel mutations in proteins of known function, we show that the function of poorly annotated proteins can be predicted and used to identify candidate missing link proteins in essential A. baumannii processes. Using this strategy, we uncovered multiple uncharacterized proteins with critical roles in cell division or cell elongation, and revealed that a predicted cell wall D,D-endopeptidase has an unappreciated function in lipooligosaccharide synthesis. Moreover, we provide a genetic strategy that uses hypersensitivity signatures to predict drug synergies, allowing the identification of β-lactams that work cooperatively based on the cell wall assembly machineries that they preferentially target. These data reveal multiple pathways critical for envelope growth in A. baumannii that can be targeted in combination strategies for attacking the pathogen.