The relationship between efflux system overexpression and cross-resistance to cefoxitin, quinolones, and chloramphenicol has recently been reported in Klebsiella pneumoniae. In 3 previously published clinical isolates and 17 in vitro mutants selected with cefoxitin or fluoroquinolones, mutations in the potential regulator genes of the AcrAB efflux pump (acrR, ramR, ramA, marR, marA, soxR, soxS, and rob) were searched, and their impacts on efflux-related antibiotic cross-resistance were assessed. All mutants but 1, and 2 clinical isolates, overexpressed acrB. No mutation was detected in the regulator genes studied among the clinical isolates and 8 of the mutants. For the 9 remaining mutants, a mutation was found in the ramR gene in 8 of them and in the soxR gene in the last one, resulting in overexpression of ramA and soxS, respectively. Transformation of the ramR mutants and the soxR mutant with the wild-type ramR and soxR genes, respectively, abolished overexpression of acrB and ramA in the ramR mutants and of soxS in the soxR mutant, as well as antibiotic cross-resistance. Resistance due to efflux system overexpression was demonstrated for 4 new antibiotics: cefuroxime, cefotaxime, ceftazidime, and ertapenem. This study shows that the ramR and soxR genes control the expression of efflux systems in K. pneumoniae and suggests the existence of efflux pumps other than AcrAB and of other loci involved in the regulation of AcrAB expression.
Transcriptional regulators, such as SoxS, RamA, MarA, and Rob, which upregulate the AcrAB efflux pump, have been shown to be associated with multidrug resistance in clinically relevant Gram-negative bacteria. In addition to the multidrug resistance phenotype, these regulators have also been shown to play a role in the cellular metabolism and possibly the virulence potential of microbial cells. As such, the increased expression of these proteins is likely to cause pleiotropic phenotypes. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a major nosocomial pathogen which can express the SoxS, MarA, Rob, and RamA proteins, and the accompanying paper shows that the increased transcription of ramA is associated with tigecycline resistance (M. Veleba and T. Schneiders, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56:4466–4467, 2012). Bioinformatic analyses of the available Klebsiella genome sequences show that an additional AraC-type regulator is encoded chromosomally. In this work, we characterize this novel AraC-type regulator, hereby called RarA (Regulator of antibiotic resistance A), which is encoded in K. pneumoniae, Enterobacter sp. 638, Serratia proteamaculans 568, and Enterobacter cloacae. We show that the overexpression of rarA results in a multidrug resistance phenotype which requires a functional AcrAB efflux pump but is independent of the other AraC regulators. Quantitative real-time PCR experiments show that rarA (MGH 78578 KPN_02968) and its neighboring efflux pump operon oqxAB (KPN_02969_02970) are consistently upregulated in clinical isolates collected from various geographical locations (Chile, Turkey, and Germany). Our results suggest that rarA overexpression upregulates the oqxAB efflux pump. Additionally, it appears that oqxR, encoding a GntR-type regulator adjacent to the oqxAB operon, is able to downregulate the expression of the oqxAB efflux pump, where OqxR complementation resulted in reductions to olaquindox MICs.
Understanding the impact of antimicrobial use on the emergence of resistant bacteria is imperative to prevent its emergence. For instance, activation of the AcrAB efflux pumps is responsible for the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella strains. Here, we examined the expression levels of acrB and its multiple regulator genes (RamA, SoxS, MarA, and Rob) in 17 field isolates of S. Choleraesuis by using quantitative PCR methods. The expression of acrB increased in eight of the field isolates (P < 0.05). The expression of acrB was associated with that of ramA in one isolate, soxS in one isolate, and both these genes in six isolates. Thereafter, to examine the effect of selected antimicrobials (enrofloxacin, ampicillin, oxytetracycline, kanamycin, and spectinomycin) on the expression of acrB and its regulator genes, mutants derived from five isolates of S. Choleraesuis were selected by culture on antimicrobial-containing plates. The expression of acrB and ramA was higher in the mutants selected using enrofloxacin (3.3–6.3- and 24.5–37.7-fold, respectively), ampicillin (1.8–7.7- and 16.1–55.9-fold, respectively), oxytetracycline (1.7–3.3- and 3.2–31.1-fold, respectively), and kanamycin (1.6–2.2- and 5.6–26.4-fold, respectively), which are AcrAB substrates, than in each of the parental strains (P < 0.05). In contrast, in AcrAB substrate-selected mutants, the expression of soxS, marA, and rob remained similar to that in parental strains. Of the four antimicrobials, the level of ramA expression was significantly higher in the enrofloxacin- and ampicillin-selected mutants than in the oxytetracycline- and kanamycin-selected mutants (P < 0.05), whereas the expression levels of acrB and multiple regulator genes in spectinomycin-selected mutants were similar to those in each parental strain. These data suggest that exposure to antimicrobials that are AcrAB substrates enhance the activation of the AcrAB efflux pump via RamA, but not via SoxS, MarA, or Rob in S. Choleraesuis.
AcrAB efflux pump; antimicrobial resistance; RamA; Salmonella Choleraesuis; SoxS
It has been proposed that lack of a functional efflux system(s) will lead to a lower frequency of selection of resistance to fluoroquinolones and other antibiotics. We constructed five strains of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 that lacked efflux gene components of resistance nodulation cell division pumps (acrB, acrD, acrF, acrBacrF, and tolC) plus three strains that lack genes that effect efflux gene expression (marA, soxS, and ramA) and a hypermutable strain (mutS::aph). Strains were exposed to ciprofloxacin at 2× the MIC in agar, in the presence and absence of Phe-Arg-β-naphthylamide, an efflux pump inhibitor. Mutants were selected from all strains except those lacking acrB, tolC, or acrBacrF. For strains from which mutants were selected, there were no significant differences between the frequencies of resistance. Except for mutants of the ramA::aph strain, two phenotypes arose: resistance to quinolones only and multiple antibiotic resistance (MAR). ramA::aph mutants were resistant to quinolones only, suggesting a role for ramA in MAR in S. enterica serovar Typhimurium. Phe-Arg-β-naphthylamide (20 μg/ml) had no effect on the frequencies of resistance or ciprofloxacin MICs. In conclusion, functional AcrB and TolC in S. enterica serovar Typhimurium are important for the selection of ciprofloxacin-resistant mutants.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344, in which efflux pump genes (acrB, acrD, acrF, tolC) or regulatory genes thereof (marA, soxS, ramA) were inactivated, was grown in the presence of 240 antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial agents in the Biolog Phenotype MicroArray. Mutants lacking tolC, acrB, and ramA grew significantly worse than other mutants in the presence of 48 agents (some of which have not previously been identified as substrates of AcrAB-TolC) and particularly poorly in the presence of phenothiazines, which are human antipsychotics. MIC testing revealed that the phenothiazine chlorpromazine had antimicrobial activity and synergized with common antibiotics against different Salmonella serovars and SL1344. Chlorpromazine increased the intracellular accumulation of ethidium bromide, which was ablated in mutants lacking acrB, suggesting an interaction with AcrB. High-level but not low-level overexpression of ramA increased the expression of acrB; conferred resistance to chloramphenicol, tetracycline, nalidixic acid, and triclosan and organic solvent tolerance; and increased the amount of ethidium bromide accumulated. Chlorpromazine induced the modest overproduction of ramA but repressed acrB. These data suggest that phenothiazines are not efflux pump inhibitors but influence gene expression, including that of acrB, which confers the synergy with antimicrobials observed.
Tigecycline resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae results from ramA upregulation that causes the overexpression of the efflux pump, AcrAB-TolC. Tigecycline mutants, derived from Ecl8ΔramA, can exhibit a multidrug resistance phenotype due to increased transcription of the marA, rarA, acrAB, and oqxAB genes. These findings support the idea that tigecycline or multidrug resistance in K. pneumoniae, first, is not solely dependent on the ramA gene, and second, can arise via alternative regulatory pathways in K. pneumoniae.
The amount of acrB, marA, and soxS mRNA was determined in 36 fluoroquinolone-resistant E. coli from humans and animals, 27 of which displayed a multiple-resistance phenotype. acrB mRNA was elevated in 11 of 36 strains. A mutation at codon 45 (Arg→Cys) in acrR was found in 6 of these 11 strains. Ten of the 36 isolates appeared to overexpress soxS, and five appeared to overexpress marA. A number of mutations were found in the marR and soxR repressor genes, correlating with greater amounts of marA and soxS mRNA, respectively.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium has at least nine
multidrug efflux pumps. Among these pumps, AcrAB is effective in generating
drug resistance and has wide substrate specificity. Here we report that
indole, bile, and an Escherichia coli conditioned medium induced the
AcrAB pump in Salmonella through a specific regulator, RamA. The
RamA-binding sites were located in the upstream regions of acrAB and
tolC. RamA was required for indole induction of acrAB. Other
regulators of acrAB such as MarA, SoxS, Rob, SdiA, and AcrR did not
contribute to acrAB induction by indole in Salmonella.
Indole activated ramA transcription, and overproduction of RamA
caused increased acrAB expression. In contrast, induction of
ramA was not required for induction of acrAB by bile. Cholic
acid binds to RamA, and we suggest that bile acts by altering pre-existing
RamA. This points to two different AcrAB regulatory modes through RamA. Our
results suggest that RamA controls the Salmonella AcrAB-TolC
multidrug efflux system through dual regulatory modes in response to
Comparative reverse transcription-PCR in combination with denaturing high-pressure liquid chromatography analysis was used to determine the levels of expression of soxS, marA, acrF, acrB, and acrD in multiple-antibiotic-resistant (MAR) Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium isolates and mutants of S. enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 with defined deletions. Posttherapy MAR clinical isolates had increased levels of expression of all genes except soxS. S. enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 ΔacrB expressed 7.9-fold more acrF than the parent strain. A strain with an acrF deletion expressed 4.6-fold more acrB. Deletion of acrB and/or acrF resulted in 2.7- to 4.3-fold more marA mRNA and 3.6- to 4.9-fold increases in the levels of expression of acrD but had a variable effect on the expression of soxS. All mutants were hypersusceptible to antibiotics, dyes, and detergents; but the MIC changes were more noticeable for SL1344 with the acrB deletion than for the mutant with the acrF disruption. These mutants had different but overlapping phenotypes, and the concentrations of ciprofloxacin accumulated by the mutants were different. These data suggest that acrB, acrF, and acrD are coordinately regulated and that their expression influences the expression of the transcriptional activators marA and soxS.
Multidrug resistance (MDR) in clinical isolates of Escherichia coli can be associated with overexpression of marA, a transcription factor that upregulates multidrug efflux and downregulates membrane permeability. Using random transposome mutagenesis, we found that many chromosomal genes and environmental stimuli affected MarA-mediated antibiotic resistance. Seven genes affected resistance mediated by MarA in an antibiotic-specific way; these were mostly genes encoding unrelated enzymes, transporters, and unknown proteins. Other genes affected MarA-mediated resistance to all antibiotics tested. These genes were acrA, acrB, and tolC (which encode the major MarA-regulated multidrug efflux pump AcrAB-TolC), crp, cyaA, hns, and pcnB (four genes involved in global regulation of gene expression), and the unknown gene damX. The last five genes affected MarA-mediated MDR by altering marA expression or MarA function specifically on acrA. These findings demonstrate that MarA-mediated MDR is regulated at multiple levels by different genes and stimuli, which makes it both complex and fine-tuned and interconnects it with global cell regulation and metabolism. Such a regulation could contribute to the adaptation and spread of MDR strains and may be targeted to treat antibiotic-resistant E. coli and related pathogens.
Multidrug resistance (MDR) in Enterobacter aerogenes can be mediated by induction of MarA, which is triggered by certain antibiotics and phenolic compounds. In this study, we identified the gene encoding RamA, a 113-amino-acid regulatory protein belonging to the AraC-XylS transcriptional activator family, in the Enterobacter aerogenes ATCC 13048 type strain and in a clinical multiresistant isolate. Overexpression of RamA induced an MDR phenotype in drug-susceptible Escherichia coli JM109 and E. aerogenes ATCC 13048, as demonstrated by 2- to 16-fold-increased resistance to β-lactams, tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and quinolones, a decrease in porin production, and increased production of AcrA, a component of the AcrAB-TolC drug efflux pump. We show that RamA enhances the transcription of the marRAB operon but is also able to induce an MDR phenotype in a mar-deleted strain. We demonstrate here that RamA is a transcriptional activator of the Mar regulon and is also a self-governing activator of the MDR cascade.
The genetic basis for fluoroquinolone resistance was examined in 30 high-level fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli clinical isolates from Beijing, China. Each strain also demonstrated resistance to a variety of other antibiotics. PCR sequence analysis of the quinolone resistance-determining region of the topoisomerase genes (gyrA/B, parC) revealed three to five mutations known to be associated with fluoroquinolone resistance. Western blot analysis failed to demonstrate overexpression of MarA, and Northern blot analysis did not detect overexpression of soxS RNA in any of the clinical strains. The AcrA protein of the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump was overexpressed in 19 of 30 strains of E. coli tested, and all 19 strains were tolerant to organic solvents. PCR amplification of the complete acrR (regulator/repressor) gene of eight isolates revealed amino acid changes in four isolates, a 9-bp deletion in another, and a 22-bp duplication in a sixth strain. Complementation with a plasmid-borne wild-type acrR gene reduced the level of AcrA in the mutants and partially restored antibiotic susceptibility 1.5- to 6-fold. This study shows that mutations in acrR are an additional genetic basis for fluoroquinolone resistance.
Control of membrane permeability is a key step in regulating the intracellular concentration of antibiotics. Efflux pumps confer innate resistance to a wide range of toxic compounds such as antibiotics, dyes, detergents, and disinfectants in members of the Enterobacteriaceae. The AcrAB-TolC efflux pump is involved in multidrug resistance in Enterobacter cloacae. However, the underlying mechanism that regulates the system in this microorganism remains unknown. In Escherichia coli, the transcription of acrAB is upregulated under global stress conditions by proteins such as MarA, SoxS, and Rob. In the present study, two clinical isolates of E. cloacae, EcDC64 (a multidrug-resistant strain overexpressing the AcrAB-TolC efflux pump) and Jc194 (a strain with a basal AcrAB-TolC expression level), were used to determine whether similar global stress responses operate in E. cloacae and also to establish the molecular mechanisms underlying this response. A decrease in susceptibility to erythromycin, tetracycline, telithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and chloramphenicol was observed in clinical isolate Jc194 and, to a lesser extent in EcDC64, in the presence of salicylate, decanoate, tetracycline, and paraquat. Increased expression of the acrAB promoter in the presence of the above-described conditions was observed by flow cytometry and reverse transcription-PCR, by using a reporter fusion protein (green fluorescent protein). The expression level of the AcrAB promoter decreased in E. cloacae EcDC64 derivates deficient in SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Accordingly, the expression level of the AcrAB promoter was higher in E. cloacae Jc194 strains overproducing SoxS, RobA, and RamA. Overall, the data showed that SoxS, RobA, and RamA regulators were associated with the upregulation of acrAB, thus conferring antimicrobial resistance as well as a stress response in E. cloacae. In summary, the regulatory proteins SoxS, RobA, and RamA were cloned and sequenced for the first time in this species. The involvement of these proteins in conferring antimicrobial resistance through upregulation of acrAB was demonstrated in E. cloacae.
In the sequenced genome of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain LT2, an open reading frame (STM0580) coding for a putative regulatory protein of the TetR family is found upstream of the ramA gene. Overexpression of ramA results in increased expression of the AcrAB efflux pump and, consequently, multidrug resistance (MDR) in several bacterial species. The inactivation of the putative regulatory protein gene upstream of ramA in a susceptible serovar Typhimurium strain resulted in an MDR phenotype with fourfold increases in the MICs of unrelated antibiotics, such as quinolones/fluoroquinolones, phenicols, and tetracycline. The inactivation of this gene also resulted in a fourfold increase in the expression of ramA and a fourfold increase in the expression of the AcrAB efflux pump. These results indicated that the gene encodes a local repressor of ramA and was thus named ramR. In contrast, the inactivation of marR, marA, soxR, and soxS did not affect the susceptibilities of the strain. In quinolone- or fluoroquinolone-resistant strains of serovar Typhimurium overexpressing AcrAB, several point mutations which resulted in amino acid changes or an in-frame shift were identified in ramR; in addition, mutations interrupting ramR with an IS1 element were identified in high-level fluoroquinolone-resistant serovar Typhimurium DT204 strains. One serovar Typhimurium DT104 isolate had a 2-nucleotide deletion in the putative RamR binding site found upstream of ramA. These mutations were confirmed to play a role in the MDR phenotype by complementing the isolates with an intact ramR gene or by inactivating their respective ramA gene. No mutations in the mar or sox region were found in the strains studied. In conclusion, mutations in ramR appear to play a major role in the upregulation of RamA and AcrAB and, consequently, in the efflux-mediated MDR phenotype of serovar Typhimurium.
The contribution of regulatory genes to fluoroquinolone resistance was studied with clinical Escherichia coli strains bearing mutations in gyrA and parC and with different levels of fluoroquinolone resistance. Expression of marA and soxS was evaluated by Northern blot analysis of isolates that demonstrated increased organic solvent tolerance, a phenotype that has been linked to overexpression of marA, soxS, and rob. Among 25 cyclohexane-tolerant strains detected by a screen for increased organic solvent tolerance (M. Oethinger, W. V. Kern, J. D. Goldman, and S. B. Levy, J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 41:111–114, 1998), we found 5 Mar mutants and 4 Sox mutants. A further Mar mutant was detected among 11 fluoroquinolone-resistant, cyclohexane-susceptible E. coli strains used as controls. Comparison of the marOR sequences of clinical Mar mutants with that of E. coli K-12 (GenBank accession no. M96235) revealed point mutations in marR in all mutants which correlated with loss of repressor function as detected in a marO::lacZ transcriptional assay. We found four other amino acid changes in MarR that did not lead to loss of function. Two of these changes, present in 20 of the 35 sequenced marOR fragments, identified a variant genotype of marOR. Isolates with the same gyrA and parC mutations showed increased fluoroquinolone resistance when the mutations were accompanied by overexpression of marA or soxS. These data support the hypothesis that high-level fluoroquinolone resistance involves mutations at several chromosomal loci, comprising structural and regulatory genes.
Mutations in loci other than genes for the target topoisomerases of fluoroquinolones, gyrA and parC, may play a role in the development of fluoroquinolone resistance in Escherichia coli. A series of mutants with increasing resistance to ofloxacin was obtained from an E. coli K-12 strain and five clinical isolates. First-step mutants acquired a gyrA mutation. Second-step mutants reproducibly acquired a phenotype of multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) and organic solvent tolerance and showed enhanced fluoroquinolone efflux. None of the second-step mutants showed additional topoisomerase mutations. All second-step mutants showed constitutive expression of marA and/or overexpressed soxS. In some third-step mutants, fluoroquinolone efflux was further enhanced compared to that for second-step mutants, even when the mutant had acquired additional topoisomerase mutations. Attempts to circumvent the second-step Mar mutation by induction of the mar locus with sodium salicylate and thus to select for pure topoisomerase mutants at the second step were not successful. At least in vitro, non-target gene mutations accumulate in second- and third-step mutants upon exposure to a fluoroquinolone and typically include, but do not appear to be limited to, mutations in the mar or sox regulons with consequent increased drug efflux.
Five Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates with reduced susceptibility to tigecycline (MIC, 2 μg/ml) were analyzed. A gene homologous to ramR of Salmonella enterica was identified in Klebsiella pneumoniae. Sequencing of ramR in the nonsusceptible Klebsiella strains revealed deletions, insertions, and point mutations. Transformation of mutants with wild-type ramR genes, but not with mutant ramR genes, restored susceptibility to tigecycline and repressed overexpression of ramA and acrB. Thus, this study reveals a molecular mechanism for tigecycline resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae.
Expression of the marA or soxS genes is induced by exposure of Escherichia coli to salicylate or superoxides, respectively. This, in turn, enhances the expression of a common set of promoters (the mar/soxRS regulons), resulting in both multiple antibiotic and superoxide resistance. Since MarA protein is highly homologous to SoxS, and since a MalE-SoxS fusion protein has recently been shown to activate soxRS regulon transcription, the ability of MarA to activate transcription of these genes was tested. MarA was overexpressed as a histidine-tagged fusion protein, purified, cleaved with thrombin (leaving one N-terminal histidine residue), and renatured. Like MalE-SoxS, MarA (i) activated the transcription of zwf, fpr, fumC, micF, nfo, and sodA; (ii) required a 21-bp "soxbox" sequence to activate zwf transcription; and (iii) was "ambidextrous," i.e., required the C-terminal domain of the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase for activation of zwf but not fumC or micF. Thus, the mar and soxRS systems use activators with very similar specificities and mechanisms of action to respond to different environmental signals.
Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium have evolved genetic systems, such as the soxR/S and marA regulons, to detoxify reactive oxygen species, like superoxide, which are formed as by-products of metabolism. Superoxide also serves as a microbicidal effector mechanism of the host's phagocytes. Here, we investigate whether regulatory genes other than soxR/S and marA are active in response to oxidative stress in Salmonella and may function as virulence determinants. We identified a bacterial gene, which was designated ramA (342 bp) and mapped at 13.1 min on the Salmonella chromosome, that, when overexpressed on a plasmid in E. coli or Salmonella, confers a pleiotropic phenotype characterized by increased resistance to the redox-cycling agent menadione and to multiple unrelated antibiotics. The ramA gene is present in Salmonella serovars but is absent in E. coli. The gene product displays 37 to 52% homology to the transcriptional activators soxR/S and marA and 80 to 100% identity to a multidrug resistance gene in Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi A. Although a ramA soxR/S double null mutant is highly susceptible to intracellular superoxide generated by menadione and displays decreased Mn-superoxide dismutase activity, intracellular survival of this mutant within macrophage-like RAW 264.7 cells and in vivo replication in the spleens in Ityr mice are not affected. We concluded that despite its role in the protective response of the bacteria to oxidative stress in vitro, the newly identified ramA gene, together with soxR/S, does not play a role in initial replication of Salmonella in the organs of mice.
Overexpression of ramA has been implicated in resistance to multiple drugs in several enterobacterial pathogens. In the present study, Salmonella Typhimurium strain LTL with constitutive expression of ramA was compared to its ramA-deletion mutant by employing both DNA microarrays and phenotype microarrays (PM). The mutant strain with the disruption of ramA showed differential expression of at least 33 genes involved in 11 functional groups. The study confirmed at the transcriptional level that the constitutive expression of ramA was directly associated with increased expression of multidrug efflux pump AcrAB-TolC and decreased expression of porin protein OmpF, thereby conferring multiple drug resistance phenotype. Compared to the parent strain constitutively expressing ramA, the ramA mutant had increased susceptibility to over 70 antimicrobials and toxic compounds. The PM analysis also uncovered that the ramA mutant was better in utilization of 10 carbon sources and 5 phosphorus sources. This study suggested that the constitutive expression of ramA locus regulate not only multidrug efflux pump and accessory genes but also genes involved in carbon metabolic pathways.
MarA47Yp from Yersinia pestis, showing 47% identity to Escherichia coli MarA in its N terminus, caused resistance to antibiotics and to organic solvents when expressed in both E. coli and Y. pestis. Resistance was linked to increased expression of the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump. In four of five spontaneous multidrug-resistant mutants of Y. pestis independently selected by growth on tetracycline, the marA47Yp gene was overexpressed. The findings suggest that marA47Yp is a marA ortholog in Y. pestis.
The AcrAB-TolC efflux pump is involved in maintaining intrinsic organic solvent tolerance in Escherichia coli. Mutations in regulatory genes such as marR, soxR, and acrR are known to increase the expression level of the AcrAB-TolC pump. To identify these mutations in organic solvent tolerant E. coli, eight cyclohexane-tolerant E. coli JA300 mutants were isolated and examined by DNA sequencing for mutations in marR, soxR, and acrR. Every mutant carried a mutation in either marR or acrR. Among all mutants, strain CH7 carrying a nonsense mutation in marR (named marR109) and an insertion of IS5 in acrR, exhibited the highest organic solvent-tolerance levels. To clarify the involvement of these mutations in improving organic solvent tolerance, they were introduced into the E. coli JA300 chromosome by site-directed mutagenesis using λ red-mediated homologous recombination. Consequently, JA300 mutants carrying acrR::IS5, marR109, or both were constructed and named JA300 acrRIS, JA300 marR, or JA300 acrRIS marR, respectively. The organic solvent tolerance levels of these mutants were increased in the following order: JA300 < JA300 acrRIS < JA300 marR < JA300 acrRIS marR. JA300 acrRIS marR formed colonies on an agar plate overlaid with cyclohexane and p-xylene (6:4 vol/vol mixture). The organic solvent-tolerance level and AcrAB-TolC efflux pump-expression level in JA300 acrRIS marR were similar to those in CH7. Thus, it was shown that the synergistic effects of mutations in only two regulatory genes, acrR and marR, can significantly increase organic solvent tolerance in E. coli.
Escherichia coli; Organic solvent tolerance; MarR; AcrR; AcrAB-TolC; Efflux pump
The transcriptional activator RamA regulates production of the multidrug resistance efflux AcrAB–TolC system in several Enterobacteriaceae. This study investigated factors that lead to increased expression of ramA.
In order to monitor changes in ramA expression, the promoter region of ramA was fused to a gfp gene encoding an unstable green fluorescence protein (GFP) on the reporter plasmid, pMW82. The ramA reporter plasmid was transformed into Salmonella Typhimurium SL1344 and a ΔacrB mutant. The response of the reporter to subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics, dyes, biocides, psychotropic agents and efflux inhibitors was measured during growth over a 5 h time period.
Our data revealed that the expression of ramA was increased in a ΔacrB mutant and also in the presence of the efflux inhibitors phenylalanine-arginine-β-naphthylamide, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone and 1-(1-naphthylmethyl)-piperazine. The phenothiazines chlorpromazine and thioridazine also increased ramA expression, triggering the greatest increase in GFP expression. However, inducers of Escherichia coli marA and soxS and 12 of 17 tested antibiotic substrates of AcrAB–TolC did not induce ramA expression.
This study shows that expression of ramA is not induced by most substrates of the AcrAB–TolC efflux system, but is increased by mutational inactivation of acrB or when efflux is inhibited.
antibiotic resistance; efflux inhibitors; phenothiazines
Tigecycline resistance has been attributed to ramA overexpression and subsequent acrA upregulation. The ramA locus, originally identified in Klebsiella pneumoniae, has homologues in Enterobacter and Salmonella spp. In this study, we identify in silico that the ramR binding site is also present in Citrobacter spp. and that Enterobacter, Citrobacter and Klebsiella spp. share key regulatory elements in the control of the romA–ramA locus. RACE (rapid amplification of cDNA ends) mapping indicated that there are two promoters from which romA–ramA expression can be regulated in K. pneumoniae. Correspondingly, electrophoretic binding studies clearly showed that purified RamA and RamR proteins bind to both of these promoters. Hence, there appear to be two RamR binding sites within the Klebsiella romA–ramA locus. Like MarA, RamA binds the promoter region, implying that it might be subject to autoregulation. We have identified changes within ramR in geographically distinct clinical isolates of K. pneumoniae. Intriguingly, levels of romA and ramA expression were not uniformly affected by changes within the ramR gene, thereby supporting the dual promoter finding. Furthermore, a subset of strains sustained no changes within the ramR gene but which still overexpressed the romA–ramA genes, strongly suggesting that a secondary regulator may control ramA expression.
Klebsiella pneumoniae; romA; ramA; ramR; acrA; Tigecycline
RarA is an AraC-type regulator in Klebsiella pneumoniae, which, when overexpressed, confers a low-level multidrug-resistant (MDR) phenotype linked to the upregulation of both the acrAB and oqxAB efflux genes. Increased rarA expression has also been shown to be integral in the development of tigecycline resistance in the absence of ramA in K. pneumoniae. Given its phenotypic role in MDR, microarray analyses were performed to determine the RarA regulon. Transcriptome analysis was undertaken using strains Ecl8ΔrarA/pACrarA-2 (rarA-expressing construct) and Ecl8ΔrarA/pACYC184 (vector-only control) using bespoke microarray slides consisting of probes derived from the genomic sequences of K. pneumoniae MGH 78578 (NC_009648.1) and Kp342 (NC_011283.1). Our results show that rarA overexpression resulted in the differential expression of 66 genes (42 upregulated and 24 downregulated). Under the COG (clusters of orthologous groups) functional classification, the majority of affected genes belonged to the category of cell envelope biogenesis and posttranslational modification, along with genes encoding the previously uncharacterized transport proteins (e.g., KPN_03141, sdaCB, and leuE) and the porin OmpF. However, genes associated with energy production and conversion and amino acid transport/metabolism (e.g., nuoA, narJ, and proWX) were found to be downregulated. Biolog phenotype analyses demonstrated that rarA overexpression confers enhanced growth of the overexpresser in the presence of several antibiotic classes (i.e., beta-lactams and fluoroquinolones), the antifungal/antiprotozoal compound clioquinol, disinfectants (8-hydroxyquinoline), protein synthesis inhibitors (i.e., minocycline and puromycin), membrane biogenesis agents (polymyxin B and amitriptyline), DNA synthesis (furaltadone), and the cytokinesis inhibitor (sanguinarine). Both our transcriptome and phenotypic microarray data support and extend the role of RarA in the MDR phenotype of K. pneumoniae.