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  1. Abstract

    The emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance highlights the urgent need for new antibiotics. Organoarsenicals have been used as antimicrobials since Paul Ehrlich’s salvarsan. Recently a soil bacterium was shown to produce the organoarsenical arsinothricin. We demonstrate that arsinothricin, a non-proteinogenic analog of glutamate that inhibits glutamine synthetase, is an effective broad-spectrum antibiotic against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, suggesting that bacteria have evolved the ability to utilize the pervasive environmental toxic metalloid arsenic to produce a potent antimicrobial. With every new antibiotic, resistance inevitably arises. ThearsN1gene, widely distributed in bacterial arsenic resistance (ars) operons, selectively confers resistance to arsinothricin by acetylation of the α-amino group. Crystal structures of ArsN1N-acetyltransferase, with or without arsinothricin, shed light on the mechanism of its substrate selectivity. These findings have the potential for development of a new class of organoarsenical antimicrobials and ArsN1 inhibitors.

  2. Summary

    Arsenic is the most ubiquitous environmental toxin. Here, we demonstrate that bacteria have evolved the ability to use arsenic to gain a competitive advantage over other bacteria at least twice. Microbes generate toxic methylarsenite (MAs(III)) by methylation of arsenite (As(III)) or reduction of methylarsenate (MAs(V)). MAs(III) is oxidized aerobically to MAs(V), making methylation a detoxification process. MAs(V) is continually re‐reduced to MAs(III) by other community members, giving them a competitive advantage over sensitive bacteria. Because generation of a sustained pool of MAs(III) requires microbial communities, these complex interactions are an emergent property. We show that reduction of MAs(V) byBurkholderiasp. MR1 produces toxic MAs(III) that inhibits growth ofEscherichia coliin mixed culture. There are three microbial mechanisms for resistance to MAs(III). ArsH oxidizes MAs(III) to MAs(V). ArsI degrades MAs(III) to As(III). ArsP confers resistance by efflux. Cells ofE. coliexpressingarsI,arsHorarsPgrow in mixed culture withBurkholderiasp. MR1 in the presence of MAs(V). Thus MAs(III) has antibiotic properties: a toxic organic compound produced by one microbe to kill off competitors. Our results demonstrate that life has adapted to use environmental arsenic as a weapon in the continuing battle for dominance.

  3. Arsenicals are one of the oldest treatments for a variety of human disorders. Although infamous for its toxicity, arsenic is paradoxically a therapeutic agent that has been used since ancient times for the treatment of multiple diseases. The use of most arsenic-based drugs was abandoned with the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940s, but a few remained in use such as those for the treatment of trypanosomiasis. In the 1970s, arsenic trioxide, the active ingredient in a traditional Chinese medicine, was shown to produce dramatic remission of acute promyelocytic leukemia similar to the effect of all-trans retinoic acid. Since then, there has been a renewed interest in the clinical use of arsenicals. Here the ancient and modern medicinal uses of inorganic and organic arsenicals are reviewed. Included are antimicrobial, antiviral, antiparasitic and anticancer applications. In the face of increasing antibiotic resistance and the emergence of deadly pathogens such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, we propose revisiting arsenicals with proven efficacy to combat emerging pathogens. Current advances in science and technology can be employed to design newer arsenical drugs with high therapeutic index. These novel arsenicals can be used in combination with existing drugs or serve as valuablemore »alternatives in the fight against cancer and emerging pathogens. The discovery of the pentavalent arsenic-containing antibiotic arsinothricin, which is effective against multidrug-resistant pathogens, illustrates the future potential of this new class of organoarsenical antibiotics.« less
  4. We report two routes of chemical synthesis of arsinothricin (AST), the novel organoarsenical antibiotic. One is by condensation of the 2-chloroethyl(methyl)arsinic acid with acetamidomalonate, and the second involves reduction of the N -acetyl protected derivative of hydroxyarsinothricin (AST-OH) and subsequent methylation of a trivalent arsenic intermediate with methyl iodide. The enzyme AST N -acetyltransferase (ArsN1) was utilized to purify l -AST from racemic AST. This chemical synthesis provides a source of this novel antibiotic for future drug development.
  5. Tang, Xiaoyu (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The soil bacterium Burkholderia gladioli GSRB05 produces the natural compound arsinothricin [2-amino-4-(hydroxymethylarsinoyl) butanoate] (AST), which has been demonstrated to be a broad-spectrum antibiotic. To identify the genes responsible for AST biosynthesis, a draft genome sequence of B. gladioli GSRB05 was constructed. Three genes, arsQML , in an arsenic resistance operon were found to be a biosynthetic gene cluster responsible for synthesis of AST and its precursor, hydroxyarsinothricin [2-amino-4-(dihydroxyarsinoyl) butanoate] (AST-OH). The arsL gene product is a noncanonical radical S -adenosylmethionine (SAM) enzyme that is predicted to transfer the 3-amino-3-carboxypropyl (ACP) group from SAM to the arsenic atom in inorganic arsenite, forming AST-OH, which is methylated by the arsM gene product, a SAM methyltransferase, to produce AST. Finally, the arsQ gene product is an efflux permease that extrudes AST from the cells, a common final step in antibiotic-producing bacteria. Elucidation of the biosynthetic gene cluster for this novel arsenic-containing antibiotic adds an important new tool for continuation of the antibiotic era. IMPORTANCE Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging global public health crisis, calling for urgent development of novel potent antibiotics. We propose that arsinothricin and related arsenic-containing compounds may be the progenitors of a new class of antibiotics to extend ourmore »antibiotic era. Here, we report identification of the biosynthetic gene cluster for arsinothricin and demonstrate that only three genes, two of which are novel, are required for the biosynthesis and transport of arsinothricin, in contrast to the phosphonate counterpart, phosphinothricin, which requires over 20 genes. Our discoveries will provide insight for the development of more effective organoarsenical antibiotics and illustrate the previously unknown complexity of the arsenic biogeochemical cycle, as well as bring new perspective to environmental arsenic biochemistry.« less
  6. Over 300 species of naturally occurring-organoarsenicals have been identified with the development of modern analytical techniques. Why there so many environmental organoarsenicals exist is a real enigma. Are they protective or harmful? Or are they simply by-products of existing pathways for non-arsenical compounds? Fundamental unanswered questions exist about their occurrence, prevalence and fate in the environment, metabolisms, toxicology and biological functions. This review focuses on possible answers. As a beginning, we classified them into two categories: water-soluble and lipid-soluble organoarsenicals (arsenolipids). Continual improvements in analytical techniques will lead to identification of additional organoarsenicals. In this review, we enumerate identified environmental organoarsenicals and speculate about their pathways of synthesis and degradation based on structural data and previous studies. Organoarsenicals are frequently considered to be nontoxic, yet trivalent methylarsenicals, synthetic aromatic arsenicals and some pentavalent arsenic-containing compounds have been shown to be highly toxic. The biological functions of some organoarsenicals have been defined. For example, arsenobetaine acts as an osmolyte, and membrane arsenolipids have a phosphate-sparing role under phosphate-limited conditions. However, the toxicological properties and biological functions of most organoarsenicals are largely unknown. The objective of this review is to summarize the toxicological and physiological properties and to provide novel insights intomore »future studies.« less