Affinity Selection-Mass Spectrometry Identifies a Novel Antibacterial RNA Polymerase Inhibitor

Scott S. Walker, David Degen, Elliott Nickbarg, Donna Carr, Aileen Soriano, Mihir Mandal, Ronald E. Painter, Payal Sheth, Li Xiao, Xinwei Sher, Nicholas Murgolo, Jing Su, David B. Olsen, Richard H. Ebright, Katherine Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The growing prevalence of drug resistant bacteria is a significant global threat to human health. The antibacterial drug rifampin, which functions by inhibiting bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP), is an important part of the antibacterial armamentarium. Here, in order to identify novel inhibitors of bacterial RNAP, we used affinity-selection mass spectrometry to screen a chemical library for compounds that bind to Escherichia coli RNAP. We identified a novel small molecule, MRL-436, that binds to RNAP, inhibits RNAP, and exhibits antibacterial activity. MRL-436 binds to RNAP through a binding site that differs from the rifampin binding site, inhibits rifampin-resistant RNAP derivatives, and exhibits antibacterial activity against rifampin-resistant strains. Isolation of mutants resistant to the antibacterial activity of MRL-436 yields a missense mutation in codon 622 of the rpoC gene encoding the RNAP β′ subunit or a null mutation in the rpoZ gene encoding the RNAP ω subunit, confirming that RNAP is the functional cellular target for the antibacterial activity of MRL-436, and indicating that RNAP β′ subunit residue 622 and the RNAP ω subunit are required for the antibacterial activity of MRL-436. Similarity between the resistance determinant for MRL-436 and the resistance determinant for the cellular alarmone ppGpp suggests a possible similarity in binding site and/or induced conformational state for MRL-436 and ppGpp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1352
Number of pages7
JournalACS chemical biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 19 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry


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