The antibacterial activities of three new penems with 4-hydroxyprolinamide, I-prolinamide and N-methyl-N-2-propionamide substituents, respectively, in position 2 and of their stereoisomers were examined against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. All substituents conferred a broad antibacterial spectrum on the penem moiety. Changes in stereoisomerism selectively improved the activity against E. coli, S. aureus or enterococci. The structure-activity relationships of each compound were discussed in relation to minimum inhibitory concentrations, penicillin-binding protein (PBP) affinity and outer membrane permeability coefficient in E. coli. In this microorganism, PBP 2 was the target for all compounds. Changes in stereoisomerism influenced the affinity for PBPs 1A/B and 2. All antibiotics easily permeated the outer membrane of E. coli and, within each group of compounds, the penetration rate correlated with the antibacterial activity.
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