2018 Volume 138 Issue 12 Pages 1537-1547
We previously showed that a naturally occurring macrocyclic bis(bibenzyl) derivative, riccardin C (RC), exhibits antibacterial activity towards methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), with a potency comparable to that of the clinically used drug vancomycin. Here, we synthesized a series of RC derivatives to explore the structure-activity relationships (SAR). The SAR results clearly indicated that the number and positions of the phenolic hydroxyl groups are primary determinants of the anti-MRSA activity. Pharmacological characterization of the macrocyclic bis(bibenzyl) derivatives, together with fragment compounds and their dimers, indicated that the macrocycles and the fragment compounds elicit anti-MRSA activity with different mechanism(s) of action. The macrocyclic bis(bibenzyl)s are bactericidal, while the fragment compounds are bacteriostatic, showing only weak bactericidal activity. Treatment with a macrocyclic bis(bibenzyl) derivative significantly changed the intracellular Na+ and K+ concentrations of Staphylococcus aureus, and transmission electron microscopy revealed that treated cells developed intracellular lamellar mesosomal-like structures. These results indicated that the macrocyclic compound directly damages the gram-positive bacterial membrane, resulting in increased permeability.