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Cross-inhibition of pathogenic agents and the host proteins they exploit

Zilbermintz, L;Leonardi, W;Tran, SH;Zozaya, J;Mathew-Joseph, A;Liem, S;Levitin, A;Martchenko, M;

The major limitations of pathogen-directed therapies are the emergence of drug-resistance and their narrow spectrum of coverage. A recently applied approach directs therapies against host proteins exploited by pathogens in order to circumvent these limitations. However, host-oriented drugs leave the pathogens unaffected and may result in continued pathogen dissemination. In this study we aimed to discover drugs that could simultaneously cross-inhibit pathogenic agents, as well as the host proteins that mediate their lethality. We observed that many pathogenic and host-assisting proteins belong to the same functional class. In doing so we targeted a protease component of anthrax toxin as well as host proteases exploited by this toxin. We identified two approved drugs, ascorbic acid 6-palmitate and salmon sperm protamine, that effectively inhibited anthrax cytotoxic protease and demonstrated that they also block proteolytic activities of host furin, cathepsin B, and caspases that mediate toxin's lethality in cells. We demonstrated that these drugs are broad-spectrum and reduce cellular sensitivity to other bacterial toxins that require the same host proteases. This approach should be generally applicable to the discovery of simultaneous pathogen and host-targeting inhibitors of many additional pathogenic agents.