Biorxiv : The Preprint Server For Biology
C. difficile infection (CDI) is associated with antibiotic usage, which disrupts the indigenous gut microbiota and causes the loss of microbial derived secondary bile acids that normally provide protection against C. difficile colonization. Previous work has shown that the secondary bile acid lithocholate (LCA) and its epimer isolithocholate (iLCA) have potent inhibitory activity against clinically relevant C. difficile strains. To further characterize the mechanisms by which LCA and its epimers iLCA and isoallolithocholate (iaLCA) inhibit C. difficile, we tested their minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) against C. difficile R20291, and a commensal gut microbiota panel. We also performed a series of experiments to determine the mechanism of action by which LCA and its epimers inhibit C. difficile through bacterial killing and effects on toxin expression and activity. Here we show that epimers iLCA and iaLCA strongly inhibit C. difficile growth in vitro while sparing most commensal Gram-negative gut microbes. We also show that iLCA and iaLCA have bactericidal activity against C. difficile, and these epimers cause significant bacterial membrane damage at subinhibitory concentrations. Finally, we observe that iLCA and iaLCA decrease the expression of the large cytotoxin tcdA while LCA significantly reduces toxin activity. Although iLCA and iaLCA are both epimers of LCA, they have distinct mechanisms for inhibiting C. difficile . LCA epimers, iLCA and iaLCA, represent promising compounds that target C. difficile with minimal effects on members of the gut microbiota that are important for colonization resistance.In the search for a novel therapeutic that targets C. difficile , bile acids have become a viable solution. Epimers of bile acids are particularly attractive as they may provide protection against C. difficile while leaving the indigenous gut microbiota largely unaltered. This study shows that iLCA and iaLCA specifically are potent inhibitors of C. difficile , affecting key virulence factors including growth, toxin expression and activity. As we move toward the use of bile acids as therapeutics, further work will be required to determine how best to deliver these bile acids to a target site within the host intestinal tract.