Mutagenesis and Resistance Development of Bacteria Challenged by Silver Nanoparticles

Kun Wu, Haichao Li, Xiao Cui, Ruobing Feng, Weizhe Chen, Yuchen Jiang, Chao Tang, Yaohai Wang, Yan Wang, Xiaopeng Shen, Yufei Liu, Michael Lynch, Hongan Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Because of their extremely broad spectrum and strong biocidal power, nanoparticles of metals, especially silver (AgNPs), have been widely applied as effective antimicrobial agents against bacteria, fungi, and so on. However, the mutagenic effects of AgNPs and resistance mechanisms of target cells remain controversial. In this study, we discover that AgNPs do not speed up resistance mutation generation by accelerating genome-wide mutation rate of the target bacterium Escherichia coli. AgNPs-treated bacteria also show decreased expression in quorum sensing (QS), one of the major mechanisms leading to population-level drug resistance in microbes. Nonetheless, these nanomaterials are not immune to resistance development by bacteria. Gene expression analysis, experimental evolution in response to sublethal or bactericidal AgNPs treatments, and gene editing reveal that bacteria acquire resistance mainly through two-component regulatory systems, especially those involved in metal detoxification, osmoregulation, and energy metabolism. Although these findings imply low mutagenic risks of nanomaterial-based antimicrobial agents, they also highlight the capacity for bacteria to evolve resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • antimicrobial agents
  • drug resistance
  • environmental mutagenesis
  • experimental evolution
  • metallic nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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