Systems-Level Chemical Biology to Accelerate Antibiotic Drug Discovery
Additional Document Info
Drug-resistant bacterial infections pose an imminent and growing threat to public health. The discovery and development of new antibiotics of novel chemical class and mode of action that are unsusceptible to existing resistance mechanisms is imperative for tackling this threat. Modern industrial drug discovery, however, has failed to provide new drugs of this description, as it is dependent largely on a reductionist genes-to-drugs research paradigm. We posit that the lack of success in new antibiotic drug discovery is due in part to a lack of understanding of the bacterial cell system as whole. A fundamental understanding of the architecture and function of bacterial systems has been elusive but is of critical importance to design strategies to tackle drug-resistant bacterial pathogens.Increasingly, systems-level approaches are rewriting our understanding of the cell, defining a dense network of redundant and interacting components that resist perturbations of all kinds, including by antibiotics. Understanding the network properties of bacterial cells requires integrative, systematic, and genome-scale approaches. These methods strive to understand how the phenotypic behavior of bacteria emerges from the many interactions of individual molecular components that constitute the system. With the ability to examine genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic consequences of, for example, genetic or chemical perturbations, researchers are increasingly moving away from one-gene-at-a-time studies to consider the system-wide response of the cell. Such measurements are demonstrating promise as quantitative tools, powerful discovery engines, and robust hypothesis generators with great value to antibiotic drug discovery.In this Account, we describe our thinking and findings using systems-level studies aimed at understanding bacterial physiology broadly and in uncovering new antibacterial chemical matter of novel mechanism. We share our systems-level toolkit and detail recent technological developments that have enabled unprecedented acquisition of genome-wide interaction data. We focus on three types of interactions: gene-gene, chemical-gene, and chemical-chemical. We provide examples of their use in understanding cell networks and how these insights might be harnessed for new antibiotic discovery. By example, we show the application of these principles in mapping genetic networks that underpin phenotypes of interest, characterizing genes of unknown function, validating small-molecule screening platforms, uncovering novel chemical probes and antibacterial leads, and delineating the mode of action of antibacterial chemicals. We also discuss the importance of computation to these approaches and its probable dominance as a tool for systems approaches in the future. In all, we advocate for the use of systems-based approaches as discovery engines in antibacterial research, both as powerful tools and to stimulate innovation.