Drug-target binding quantitatively predicts optimal antibiotic dose levels in quinolones

Fabrizio Clarelli, Adam Palmer, Bhupender Singh, Merete Storflor, Silje Lauksund, Ted Cohen, Sören Abel, Pia Abel zur Wiesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Antibiotic resistance is rising and we urgently need to gain a better quantitative understanding of how antibiotics act, which in turn would also speed up the development of new antibiotics. Here, we describe a computational model (COMBAT-COmputational Model of Bacterial Antibiotic Target-binding) that can quantitatively predict antibiotic dose-response relationships. Our goal is dual: We address a fundamental biological question and investigate how drug-target binding shapes antibiotic action. We also create a tool that can predict antibiotic efficacy a priori. COMBAT requires measurable biochemical parameters of drug-target interaction and can be directly fitted to time-kill curves. As a proof-of-concept, we first investigate the utility of COMBAT with antibiotics belonging to the widely used quinolone class. COMBAT can predict antibiotic efficacy in clinical isolates for quinolones from drug affinity (R2>0.9). To further challenge our approach, we also do the reverse: estimate the magnitude of changes in drug-target binding based on antibiotic dose-response curves. We overexpress target molecules to infer changes in antibiotic-target binding from changes in antimicrobial efficacy of ciprofloxacin with 92–94% accuracy. To test the generality of our approach, we use the beta-lactam ampicillin to predict target molecule occupancy at MIC from antimicrobial action with 90% accuracy. Finally, we apply COMBAT to predict antibiotic concentrations that can select for resistance due to novel resistance mutations. Using ciprofloxacin and ampicillin as well defined test cases, our work demonstrates that drug-target binding is a major predictor of bacterial responses to antibiotics. This is surprising because antibiotic action involves many additional effects downstream of drug-target binding. In addition, COMBAT provides a framework to inform optimal antibiotic dose levels that maximize efficacy and minimize the rise of resistant mutants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008106
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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