Efficacy of Bisphosphonate-Conjugated Sitafloxacin in a Murine Model of S. aureus Osteomyelitis: Evidence of “Target & Release” Kinetics and Killing of Bacteria Within Canaliculi

Youliang Ren, Thomas Xue, Joshua Rainbolt, Karen L.de Mesy Bentley, Chad A. Galloway, Yuting Liu, Philip Cherian, Jeffrey Neighbors, Marloes I. Hofstee, Frank H. Ebetino, Thomas Fintan Moriarty, Shuting Sun, Edward M. Schwarz, Chao Xie

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S. aureus infection of bone is difficult to eradicate due to its ability to colonize the osteocyte-lacuno-canalicular network (OLCN), rendering it resistant to standard-of-care (SOC) antibiotics. To overcome this, we proposed two bone-targeted bisphosphonate-conjugated antibiotics (BCA): bisphosphonate-conjugated sitafloxacin (BCS) and hydroxybisphosphonate-conjugate sitafloxacin (HBCS). Initial studies demonstrated that the BCA kills S. aureus in vitro. Here we demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of BCS and HBCS versus bisphosphonate, sitafloxacin, and vancomycin in mice with implant-associated osteomyelitis. Longitudinal bioluminescent imaging (BLI) confirmed the hypothesized “target and release”-type kinetics of BCS and HBCS. Micro-CT of the infected tibiae demonstrated that HBCS significantly inhibited peri-implant osteolysis versus placebo and free sitafloxacin (p < 0.05), which was not seen with the corresponding non-antibiotic-conjugated bisphosphonate control. TRAP-stained histology confirmed that HBCS significantly reduced peri-implant osteoclast numbers versus placebo and free sitafloxacin controls (p < 0.05). To confirm S. aureus killing, we compared the morphology of S. aureus autolysis within in vitro biofilm and infected tibiae via transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Live bacteria in vitro and in vivo presented as dense cocci ~1 μm in diameter. In vitro evidence of autolysis presented remnant cell walls of dead bacteria or “ghosts” and degenerating (non-dense) bacteria. These features of autolyzed bacteria were also present among the colonizing S. aureus within OLCN of infected tibiae from placebo-, vancomycin-, and sitafloxacin-treated mice, similar to placebo. However, most of the bacteria within OLCN of infected tibiae from BCA-treated mice were less dense and contained small vacuoles and holes >100 nm. Histomorphometry of the bacteria within the OLCN demonstrated that BCA significantly increased their diameter versus placebo and free antibiotic controls (p < 0.05). As these abnormal features are consistent with antibiotic-induced vacuolization, bacterial swelling, and necrotic phenotype, we interpret these findings to be the initial evidence of BCA-induced killing of S. aureus within the OLCN of infected bone. Collectively, these results support the bone targeting strategy of BCA to overcome the biodistribution limits of SOC antibiotics and warrant future studies to confirm the novel TEM phenotypes of bacteria within OLCN of S. aureus-infected bone of animals treated with BCS and HBCS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number910970
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
StatePublished - Jun 24 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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