Screening of potential lead molecules against prioritised targets of multi-drug-resistant-<i>Acinetobacter baumannii</i> – insights from molecular docking, molecular dynamic simulations and <i>in vitro</i> assays

<p><i>Acinetobacter baumannii</i>, an opportunistic pathogen, has become multi-drug resistant (MDR) to major classes of antibacterial and poses grave threat to public health. The current study focused to screen novel phytotherapeutics against prioritised targets of <i>Acinetobacter baumannii</i> by computational investigation. Fourteen potential drug targets were screened based on their functional role in various biosynthetic pathways and the 3D structures of 9 targets were retrieved from Protein Data Bank and others were computationally predicted. By extensive literature survey, 104 molecules from 48 herbal sources were screened and subjected to virtual screening. Ten clinical isolates of <i>A. baumannii</i> were tested for antibiotic susceptibility towards clinafloxacin, imipenem and polymyxin-E. Computational screening suggested that Ajmalicine ((19α)-16, 17-didehydro-19-methyloxayohimban-16-carboxylic acid methyl ester from <i>Rauwolfia serpentina</i>), Strictamin (Akuammilan-17-oic acid methyl ester from <i>Alstonia scholaris</i>) and Limonin (7, 16-dioxo-7, 16-dideoxylimondiol from <i>Citrus sps</i>) exhibited promising binding towards multiple drug targets of <i>A. baumannii</i> in comparison with the binding between standard drugs and their targets. Limonin displayed promising binding potential (binding energy −9.8 kcal/mol) towards diaminopimelate epimerase (DapF) and UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 1-carboxyvinyltransferase (MurA). Ajmalicine and Strictamin demonstrated good binding potential (−9.5, −8.5 kcal/mol, respectively) towards MurA and shikimate dehydrogenase (−7.8 kcal/mol). Molecular dynamic simulations further validated the docking results. <i>In vitro</i> assay suggested that the tested isolates exhibited resistance to clinafloxacin, imipenem and polymyxin-E and the herbal preparations (crude extract) demonstrated a significant antibacterial potential (<i>p</i> ≤ .05). The study suggests that the aforementioned lead candidates and targets can be used for structure-based drug screening towards MDR <i>A. baumannii</i>.</p>