Identification of ClpP Dual Isoform Disruption as an Antisporulation Strategy for Clostridioides difficile

Catherine E. Bishop, Tyler M. Shadid, Nathan P. Lavey, Megan L. Kempher, Jimmy D. Ballard, Adam S. Duerfeldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Gram-positive bacterium Clostridioides difficile is a primary cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea, threatening both immunocompromised and healthy individuals. An important aspect of defining mechanisms that drive C. difficile persistence and virulence relies on developing a more complete understanding of sporulation. C. difficile sporulation is the single determinant of transmission and complicates treatment and prevention due to the chemical and physical resilience of spores. By extension, the identification of druggable targets that significantly attenuate sporulation would have a significant impact on thwarting C. difficile infection. By use of a new CRISPR-Cas9 nickase genome editing methodology, stop codons were inserted early in the coding sequence for clpP1 and clpP2 to generate C. difficile mutants that no longer produced the corresponding isoforms of caseinolytic protease P (ClpP). The data show that genetic ablation of ClpP isoforms leads to altered sporulation phenotypes with the clpP1/clpP2 double mutant exhibiting asporogenic behavior. A small screen of known ClpP inhibitors in a fluorescence-based biochemical assay identified bortezomib as an inhibitor of C. difficile ClpP that produces dose-dependent inhibition of purified ClpP. Incubation of C. difficile cultures in the presence of bortezomib reveals antisporulation effects approaching that observed in the clpP1/clpP2 double mutant. This work identifies ClpP as a key contributor to C. difficile sporulation and provides compelling support for the pursuit of small-molecule ClpP inhibitors as C. difficile antisporulating agents. IMPORTANCE Due to diverse roles of ClpP and the reliance of pathogens upon this system for infection, it has emerged as a target for antimicrobial development. Biology regulated by ClpP is organism dependent and has not been defined in Clostridioides difficile. This work identifies ClpP as a key contributor to C. difficile sporulation and provides compelling support for the pursuit of small-molecule ClpP inhibitors as antisporulating agents. The identification of new approaches and/or drug targets that reduce C. difficile sporulation would be transformative and are expected to find high utility in prophylaxis, transmission attenuation, and relapse prevention. Discovery of the ClpP system as a major driver to sporulation also provides a new avenue of inquiry for advancing the understanding of sporulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00411-21
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Volume204
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103640 (A.S.D.) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of National Institutes of Health grant number R01AI119048 (J.D.B.).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

Keywords

  • Anaerobic microbiology
  • Bortezomib
  • C. difficile
  • CRISPR-Cas
  • Caseinolytic protease P
  • Sporulation

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