Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem throughout the world. Overcoming methicillin and multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA/MDRSA) infections has become a challenge and there is an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches. We have previously demonstrated that the endocannabinoid Anandamide (AEA) can sensitize MRSA to antibiotics. Here we have studied the mechanism of action using a MDRSA clinical isolate that are sensitized by AEA to methicillin and norfloxacin. We found that AEA treatment halts the growth of both antibiotic-sensitive and antibiotic-resistant S. aureus. The AEA-treated bacteria become elongated and the membranes become ruffled with many protrusions. AEA treatment also leads to an increase in the percentage of bacteria having a complete septum, suggesting that the cell division is halted at this stage. The latter is supported by cell cycle analysis that shows an accumulation of bacteria in the G2/M phase after AEA treatment. We further observed that AEA causes a dose-dependent membrane depolarization that is partly relieved upon time. Nile red staining of the bacterial membranes indicates that AEA alters the membrane structures. Importantly, 4′-6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) accumulation assay and ethidium bromide efflux (EtBr) assay unveiled that AEA leads to a dose-dependent drug accumulation by inhibiting drug efflux. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that AEA interferes with cell division, alters the membrane properties of MDRSA, and leads to increased intracellular drug retention, which can contribute to the sensitization of MDRSA to antibiotics.
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