Staphylococcus aureuselongation factor G – structure and analysis of a target for fusidic acid

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Fusidic acid (FA) is a bacteriostatic antibiotic that locks elongation factor G (EF-G) on the ribosome in a post-translocational state. It is used clinically against Gram-positive bacteria such as pathogenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus, but no structural information has been available for EF-G from these species. We have solved the apo crystal structure of EF-G from S. aureus to 1.9 Å resolution. This structure shows a dramatically different overall conformation from previous structures of EF-G, although the individual domains are highly similar. Between the different structures of free or ribosome-bound EF-G, domains III–V move relative to domains I–II, resulting in a displacement of the tip of domain IV relative to domain G. In S. aureus EF-G, this displacement is about 25 Å relative to structures of Thermus thermophilus EF-G in a direction perpendicular to that in previous observations. Part of the switch I region (residues 46–56) is ordered in a helix, and has a distinct conformation as compared with structures of EF-Tu in the GDP and GTP states. Also, the switch II region shows a new conformation, which, as in other structures of free EF-G, is incompatible with FA binding. We have analysed and discussed all known fusA-based fusidic acid resistance mutations in the light of the new structure of EF-G from S. aureus, and a recent structure of T. thermophilus EF-G in complex with the 70S ribosome with fusidic acid [Gao YG et al. (2009) Science326, 694–699]. The mutations can be classified as affecting FA binding, EF-G–ribosome interactions, EF-G conformation, and EF-G stability.

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