Many bacteria and actinomycetales use L-cysteine biosynthesis to increase their tolerance to antibacterial treatment and establish a long-lasting infection. In turn, this might lead to the onset of antimicrobial resistance that currently represents one of the most menacing threats to public health worldwide. The biosynthetic machinery required to synthesise L-cysteine is absent in mammals; therefore, its exploitation as a drug target is particularly promising. In this article, we report a series of inhibitors of Salmonella thyphimurium serine acetyltransferase (SAT), the enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step of L-cysteine biosynthesis. The development of such inhibitors started with the virtual screening of an in-house library of compounds that led to the selection of seven structurally unrelated hit derivatives. A set of molecules structurally related to hit compound 5, coming either from the original library or from medicinal chemistry efforts, were tested to determine a preliminary structure-activity relationship and, especially, to improve the inhibitory potency of the derivatives, that was indeed ameliorated by several folds compared to hit compound 5 Despite these progresses, at this stage, the most promising compound failed to interfere with bacterial growth when tested on a Gram-negative model organism, anticipating the need for further research efforts.
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