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    Macrolides are among the most widely prescribed antibiotics, particularly for bacterial lung infections, due to their favorable safety, oral bioavailability, and spectrum of activity against Gram-positive pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. Their utility against Gram-negative bacteria is extremely limited and does not include the Enterobacteriaceae or other ESKAPE pathogens. With the increasing development of resistance to current therapies and the lack of safe, oral options to treat Gram-negative infections, extended-spectrum macrolides have the potential to provide valuable treatment options. While the bacterial ribosome, the target of macrolides, is highly conserved across Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, traditional macrolides do not possess the proper physicochemical properties to cross the polar Gram-negative outer membrane and are highly susceptible to efflux. As with most natural product-derived compounds, macrolides are generally prepared through semisynthesis, which is limited in scope and lacks the ability to make the drastic physicochemical property changes necessary to overcome these hurdles.By using a fully synthetic platform technology to greatly expand structural diversity, novel macrolides were prepared with a focus on lowering the MW and increasing the polarity to achieve a physicochemical property profile more similar to that of traditional Gram-negative drug classes. In addition to the removal of lipophilic groups, a critical structural feature for obtaining Gram-negative activity in the macrolide class proved to be the introduction of small secondary or tertiary amines to yield polycationic species potentially capable of self-promoted uptake. Within the azithromycin-like 15-membered azalides, potent activity was seen when small alkyl amines were introduced at the 6'-position of desosamine. The biggest gains, however, were made by replacing the entire C10-C13 fragment of the macrolactone ring with commercially available or readily synthesized 1,2-aminoalcohols, leading to 13-membered azalides. The introduction of a tethered basic amine at the C10-position and systematic optimization of substitution and tether length and flexibility ultimately provided new macrolides that for the first time exhibit clinically relevant antibacterial activity against multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria. A retrospective computational analysis of >1800 fully synthetic macrolides prepared during this effort identified key drivers and optimum ranges for improving permeability and avoiding efflux. In contrast to standard Gram-negative drugs which generally have MWs below 600 and clogD7.4 values below 0, we found that the ideal ranges for Gram-negative macrolides were MW between 600 and 720 and cLogD7.4 between -1 and 3. A total charge of between 2.5 and 3 was also required to provide optimal permeability and efflux avoidance. Thus, Gram-negative macrolides occupy a unique physicochemical property space that lies between traditional Gram-negative drug classes and Gram-positive macrolides.


    Andrew G Myers, Roger B Clark. Discovery of Macrolide Antibiotics Effective against Multi-Drug Resistant Gram-Negative Pathogens. Accounts of chemical research. 2021 Apr 06;54(7):1635-1645

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    PMID: 33691070

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