is a major human pathogen causing a wide range of nosocomial infections including pulmonary, urinary, and skin infections. Notably, the emergence of bacterial strains resistant to conventional antibiotics has prompted researchers to find new compounds capable of killing these pathogens. Nature is undoubtedly an invaluable source of bioactive molecules characterized by an ample chemical diversity. They can act as unique platform providing new scaffolds for further chemical modifications in order to obtain compounds with optimized biological activity. A class of natural compounds with a variety of biological activities is represented by alkaloids, important secondary metabolites produced by a large number of organisms including bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. In this work, starting from the screening of 39 alkaloids retrieved from a unique in-house
library, we identified a heterodimer β-carboline alkaloid, nigritanine, with a potent anti-Staphylococcus
action. Nigritanine, isolated from Strychnos nigritana
, was characterized for its antimicrobial activity against a reference and three clinical isolates of S. aureus.
Its potential cytotoxicity was also evaluated at short and long term against mammalian red blood cells and human keratinocytes, respectively. Nigritanine showed a remarkable antimicrobial activity (minimum inhibitory concentration of 128 µM) without being toxic in vitro to both tested cells. The analysis of the antibacterial activity related to the nigritanine scaffold furnished new insights in the structure–activity relationships (SARs) of β-carboline, confirming that dimerization improves its antibacterial activity. Taking into account these interesting results, nigritanine can be considered as a promising candidate for the development of new antimicrobial molecules for the treatment of S. aureus
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