Environmental and dynamic effects explain how nisin captures membrane-bound lipid II
Antibiotics (AB) resistance is a major threat to global health, thus the development of novel AB classes is urgently needed. Lantibiotics (i.e. nisin) are natural compounds that effectively control bacterial populations, yet their clinical potential is very limited. Nisin targets membrane-embedded cell wall precursor — lipid II — via capturing its pyrophosphate group (PPi), which is unlikely to evolve, and thus represents a promising pharmaceutical target. Understanding of exact molecular mechanism of initial stages of membrane-bound lipid II recognition by water-soluble nisin is indispensable. Here, using molecular simulations, we demonstrate that the structure of lipid II is determined to a large extent by the surrounding water-lipid milieu. In contrast to the bulk solvent, in the bilayer only two conformational states remain capable of nisin binding. In these states PPi manifests a unique arrangement of hydrogen bond acceptors on the bilayer surface. Such a “pyrophosphate pharmacophore” cannot be formed by phospholipids, which explains high selectivity of nisin/lipid II recognition. Similarly, the “recognition module” of nisin, being rather flexible in water, adopts the only stable conformation in the presence of PPi analogue (which mimics the lipid II molecule). We establish the “energy of the pyrophosphate pharmacophore” approach, which effectively distinguishes nisin conformations that can form a complex with PPi. Finally, we propose a molecular model of nisin recognition module/lipid II complex in the bacterial membrane. These results will be employed for further study of lipid II targeting by antimicrobial (poly)cyclic peptides and for design of novel AB prototypes.