In response to the increasingly problematic emergence of antibiotic resistance, novel strategies for combating pathogenic bacteria are being investigated. Targeting the agr quorum sensing system, which regulates expression of virulence in Staphylococcus aureus, is one potentially useful approach for combating drug-resistant pathogens that has not yet been fully explored. A previously published study of a fragment screen resulted in the identification of five compound fragments that interact with the DNA-binding domain of the response regulator AgrA from S. aureus. We have analyzed the ability of these compounds to affect agr-mediated virulence gene expression in cultured S. aureus cells. Three of the compounds demonstrated the ability to reduce agr-driven transcription at the P2 and P3 promoters of the agr operon and increase biofilm formation, and two of these compounds also showed the ability to reduce levels of secreted toxins. The finding that the compounds tested were able to reduce agr activity suggests that they could be useful tools for probing the effects of agr inhibition. Furthermore, the characteristics of compound fragments make them good starting materials for the development of compound libraries to iteratively improve the inhibitors.
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