We present the discovery and optimization of a novel series of inhibitors of bacterial UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase (called 2-epimerase in this letter). Starting from virtual screening hits, the activity of various inhibitory molecules was optimized using a combination of structure-based and rational design approaches. We successfully designed and identified a 2-epimerase inhibitor (compound 12-ES-Na, that we named Epimerox), which blocked the growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) at 3.9 μM MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) and showed potent broad-range activity against all Gram-positive bacteria that were tested. Additionally a microplate coupled assay was performed to further confirm that the 2-epimerase inhibition of Epimerox was through a target-specific mechanism. Furthermore, Epimerox demonstrated in vivo efficacy and had a pharmacokinetic profile that is consonant with it being developed into a promising new antibiotic agent for treatment of infections caused by Gram-positive bacteria.

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