Identification of Resistance Determinants for a Promising Antileishmanial Oxaborole Series

Magali Van den Kerkhof, Philippe Leprohon, Dorien Mabille , Sarah Hendrickx, Lindsay B. Tulloch, Richard J. Wall, Susan Wyllie, Eric Chatelain, Charles E. Mowbray, Stéphanie Braillard, Marc Ouellette, Louis Maes and Guy Caljon

Microorganisms 2021, 9(7), 1408;

Current treatment options for visceral leishmaniasis have several drawbacks, and clinicians are confronted with an increasing number of treatment failures. To overcome this, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) has invested in the development of novel antileishmanial leads, including a very promising class of oxaboroles. The mode of action/resistance of this series to Leishmania is still unknown and may be important for its further development and implementation. Repeated in vivo drug exposure and an in vitro selection procedure on both extracellular promastigote and intracellular amastigote stages were both unable to select for resistance. The use of specific inhibitors for ABC-transporters could not demonstrate the putative involvement of efflux pumps. Selection experiments and inhibitor studies, therefore, suggest that resistance to oxaboroles may not emerge readily in the field. The selection of a genome-wide cosmid library coupled to next-generation sequencing (Cos-seq) was used to identify resistance determinants and putative targets. This resulted in the identification of a highly enriched cosmid, harboring genes of chromosome 2 that confer a subtly increased resistance to the oxaboroles tested. Moderately enriched cosmids encompassing a region of chromosome 34 contained the cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor (cpsf) gene, encoding the molecular target of several related benzoxaboroles in other organisms.