The respiratory pathogen, Streptococcus pneumoniae has acquired multiple-drug resistance over the years. An attractive strategy to combat pneumococcal infection is to target cell division to inhibit the proliferation of S. pneumoniae. This work presents Vitamin K3 as a potential anti-pneumococcal drug that targets FtsZ, the master coordinator of bacterial cell division. Vitamin K3 strongly inhibited S. pneumoniae proliferation with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and a minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) of 6 μg/ml. Vitamin K3 disrupted the Z-ring localization in both S. pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis within 30 min of treatment, while the membrane integrity and nucleoid segregation remain unchanged. Several complementary experiments showed that Vitamin K3 inhibits the assembly of purified S. pneumoniae FtsZ (SpnFtsZ) and induces conformational changes in the protein. Interestingly, Vitamin K3 interfered with GTP binding onto FtsZ and increased the GTPase activity of FtsZ polymers. The intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence of SpnFtsZ revealed that Vitamin K3 delays the nucleation of FtsZ polymers and reduces the rate of polymerization. In the presence of a non-hydrolyzable analog of GTP, Vitamin K3 did not show inhibition of FtsZ polymerization. These results indicated that Vitamin K3 induces conformational changes in FtsZ that increase GTP hydrolysis and thereby, destabilize the FtsZ polymers. Together, our data provide evidence that Vitamin K3 derives its potent anti-pneumococcal activity by inhibiting FtsZ assembly.

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