Mutational activation of antibiotic-resistant mechanisms in the absence of major drug efflux systems of escherichia coli

Hyunjae Cho, Rajeev Misra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Mutations are one of the common means by which bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics. In an Escherichia coli mutant lacking major antibiotic efflux pumps AcrAB and AcrEF, mutations can activate alternative pathways that lead to increased antibiotic resistance. In this work, we isolated and characterized compensatory mutations of this nature mapping in four different regulatory genes, baeS, crp, hns, and rpoB. The gain-of-function mutations in baeS constitutively activated the BaeSR two-component regulatory system to increase the expression of the MdtABC efflux pump. Missense or insertion mutations in crp and hns caused derepression of an operon coding for the MdtEF efflux pump. Interestingly, despite the dependence of rpoB missense mutations on MdtABC for their antibiotic resistance phenotype, neither the expression of the mdtABCD-baeSR operon nor that of other known antibiotic efflux pumps went up. Instead, the transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) data revealed a gene expression profile resembling that of a "stringent"RNA polymerase where protein and DNA biosynthesis pathways were downregulated but pathways to combat various stresses were upregulated. Some of these activated stress pathways are also controlled by the general stress sigma factor RpoS. The data presented here also show that compensatory mutations can act synergistically to further increase antibiotic resistance to a level similar to the efflux pump-proficient parental strain. Together, the findings highlight a remarkable genetic ability of bacteria to circumvent antibiotic assault, even in the absence of a major intrinsic antibiotic resistance mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00109-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Efflux pumps
  • Regulation of antibiotic resistance
  • Stress regulon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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