The use of antibacterial drug combinations with synergistic effects is increasingly seen as a critical strategy to combat multi-drug resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In this work, the proteome responses in MRSA under the stress of a sub-inhibitory dose of a synergistic drug combination of a novel erythromycin derivative, SIPI-8294, and oxacillin, were studied by label-free quantitative proteomics. Several control treatment groups were designed to isolate proteome responses potentially related to the synergy: (1) the non-synergistic drug combination of erythromycin and oxacillin, (2) SIPI-8294 only, (3) oxacillin only and (4) erythromycin only. Results showed that 200 proteins were differentially expressed in SIPI-8294/oxacillin-treated cells. Among these proteins, the level of penicillin binding protein 2a, the protein mainly responsible for oxacillin resistance in MRSA, was four times lower in the SIPI-8294/oxacillin group than in the erythromycin/oxacillin group, suggesting that SIPI-8294 may interfere with this known oxacillin resistance mechanism. Moreover, hierarchical clustering analysis of differentially expressed proteins under different treatments revealed that SIPI-8294/oxacillin elicits very different responses than the individual drugs or the non-synergistic erythromycin/oxacillin combination. Bioinformatic analysis indicated that the synergistic effect can be further traced to a disruption in oxidation-reduction homeostasis and cell wall biosynthesis.
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