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Genetic Evidence for Inhibition of Bacterial Division Protein FtsZ by Berberine

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James Stach

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Abstract

Background: Berberine is a plant alkaloid that is widely used as an anti-infective in traditional medicine. Escherichia coli exposed to berberine form filaments, suggesting an antibacterial mechanism that involves inhibition of cell division. Berberine is a DNA ligand and may induce filamentation through induction of the SOS response. Also, there is biochemical evidence for berberine inhibition of the cell division protein FtsZ. Here we aimed to assess possible berberine mechanism(s) of action in growing bacteria using genetics tools. Methodology/Principal Findings: First, we tested whether berberine inhibits bacterial growth through DNA damage and induction of the SOS response. The SOS response induced by berberine was much lower compared to that induced by mitomycin C in an SOS response reporter strain. Also, cell filamentation was observed in an SOS-negative E. coli strain. To test whether berberine inhibits FtsZ, we assessed its effects on formation of the cell division Z-rings, and observed a dramatic reduction in Z-rings in the presence of berberine. We next used two different strategies for RNA silencing of ftsZ and both resulted in sensitisation of bacteria to berberine, visible as a drop in the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC). Furthermore, Fractional Inhibitory Concentration Indices (FICIs) showed a high level of synergy between ftsZ silencing and berberine treatment (FICI values of 0.23 and 0.25 for peptide nucleic acid- and expressed antisense RNA-based silencing of ftsZ, respectively). Finally, over-expression of ftsZ led to a mild rescue effect in berberine-treated cells. Conclusions: The results argue against DNA binding as the primary mechanism of action of berberine and support the hypothesis that its antibacterial properties are due to inhibition of the cell division protein FtsZ. In addition, the genetic approach used here provides a means to rapidly test the activity of other putative FtsZ inhibitors. © 2010 Boberek et al.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Boberek JM, Stach JEM, Good L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS One

Year: 2010

Volume: 5

Issue: 10

Print publication date: 29/10/2010

Date deposited: 11/05/2011

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0013745

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013745


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