Isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP) are the precursors for all isoprenoid compounds. Two pathways are found in Nature for their biosynthesis. The mevalonate (MVA) pathway is found in eukaryotes, algae, archae and some gram-positive bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria, plants and some gram-positive bacteria utilize the methyl erythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway. The distribution and the orthogonal nature of the pathways make the MEP pathway an attractive new target for antibiotics and herbicides. The MEP pathway is essential for bacterial viability. Inhibitors to the MEP pathway represent a “dual-use technology” because potential targets include potential biological warfare agents in addition to common human pathogens. The CDC has three categories designated for Biological Diseases / Agents. Three of the six entities designated as the highest priority (Category A) are organisms that utilize, or appear to utilize, the MEP pathway. Among the 12 second highest priority agents (Category B) listed, 8 are organisms that appear to utilize the MEP pathway. Common human pathogens that can be targeted include the organisms responsible for peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, malaria, food safety threats, and sexually transmitted diseases. There is so far only one inhibitor reported that specifically blocks the MEP pathway and is being investigated clinically. This compound, fosmidomycin, has been shown to be somewhat effective in treating Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for malaria. We foresee that new MEP pathway inhibitors will open up an entirely new class of antibiotics. An MEP pathway intermediate has also been shown to be the most potent γδ T cell activator.
Echelon Biosciences, Inc., 675 Arapeen Drive, Suite 302, Salt Lake City, UT 84108.