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1.  Genetic and Phenotypic Variations of a Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa Epidemic Clone 
From May 1997 to December 2001, a serotype O:6 multidrug-resistant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonized or infected 201 patients in the University Hospital of Besançon (France). The susceptibility profile of this epidemic clone to fluoroquinolones and aminoglycosides was relatively stable during the outbreak but showed important isolate-to-isolate variations (up to 64-fold) in the MICs of β-lactams. Analysis of 18 genotypically related isolates selected on a quaterly basis demonstrated alterations in the two DNA topoisomerases II and IV (Thr83→Ile in GyrA and Ser87→Leu in ParC) and production of an ANT(2")-I enzyme. Although constitutively overproduced in these bacteria, the MexXY efflux system did not appear to contribute significantly to aminoglycoside resistance. β-Lactam resistance was associated with derepression of intrinsic AmpC β-lactamase (with isolate-to-isolate variations of up to 58-fold) and sporadic deficiency in a 46-kDa protein identified as the carbapenem-selective porin OprD. Of the 18 isolates, 14 were also found to overproduce the efflux system MexAB-OprM as a result of alteration of the repressor protein MexR (His107→Pro). However, complementation experiments with the cloned mexR gene demonstrated that MexAB-OprM contributed only marginally to β-lactam and fluoroquinolone resistance. Of the four isolates exhibiting wild-type MexAB-OprM expression despite the MexR alteration, two appeared to harbor secondary mutations in the mexA-mexR intergenic region and one harbored secondary mutations in the putative ribosome binding site located upstream of the mexAB oprM operon. In conclusion, this study shows that many mechanisms were involved in the multiresistance phenotype of this highly epidemic strain of P. aeruginosa. Our results also demonstrate that the clone sporadically underwent substantial genetic and phenotypic variations during the course of the outbreak, perhaps in relation to local or individual selective drug pressures.
PMCID: PMC155826  PMID: 12760863
2.  In Vivo Emergence of Multidrug-Resistant Mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Overexpressing the Active Efflux System MexA-MexB-OprM 
During a 6-month period, 21 pairs of Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates susceptible (pretherapy) and resistant (posttherapy) to antipseudomonal β-lactam antibiotics were isolated from hospitalized patients. In vivo emergence of β-lactam resistance was associated with the overexpression of AmpC β-lactamase in 10 patients. In the other 11 patients, the posttherapy isolates produced only low, basal levels of β-lactamase and had increased levels of resistance to a variety of non-β-lactam antibiotics (e.g., quinolones, tetracyclines, and trimethoprim) compared with the levels of β-lactamase production and resistance of their pretherapy counterparts. These data suggested the involvement of the MexA-MexB-OprM active efflux system in the multidrug resistance phenotype of the posttherapy strains. Immunoblotting of the outer membrane proteins of these 11 bacterial pairs with a specific polyclonal antibody raised against OprM demonstrated the overexpression of OprM in all the posttherapy isolates. To determine whether mutations in mexR, the regulator gene of the mexA-mexB-oprM efflux operon, could account for the overproduction of the efflux system, sequencing experiments were carried out with the 11 bacterial pairs. Eight posttherapy isolates were found to contain insertions or deletions that led to frameshifts in the coding sequences of mexR. Two resistant strains had point mutations in mexR that yielded single amino acid changes in the protein MexR, while another strain did not show any mutation in mexR or in the promoter region upstream of mexR. Introduction of a plasmid-encoded wild-type mexR gene into five posttherapy isolates partially restored the susceptibility of the bacteria to selected antibiotics. These results indicate that in the course of antimicrobial therapy multidrug-resistant active efflux mutants overexpressing the MexA-MexB-OprM system may emerge as a result of mutations in the mexR gene.
PMCID: PMC89065  PMID: 9925520
3.  Expression of the multidrug resistance operon mexA-mexB-oprM in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: mexR encodes a regulator of operon expression. 
The region upstream of the multiple antibiotic resistance efflux operon mexA-mexB-oprM in Pseudomonas aeruginosa was sequenced, and a gene, mexR, was identified. The predicted MexR product contains 147 amino acids with a molecular mass of 16,964 Da, which is consistent with the observed size of the overexpressed mexR gene product. MexR was homologous to MarR, the repressor of MarA-dependent multidrug resistance in Escherichia coli, and other repressors of the MarR family. A mexR knockout mutant showed a twofold increase in expression of both plasmid-borne and chromosomal mexA-reporter gene fusions compared with the MexR+ parent strain, indicating that the mexR gene product negatively regulates expression of the mexA-mexB-oprM operon. Furthermore, the cloned mexR gene product reduced expression of a plasmid-borne mexA-lacZ fusion in E. coli, indicating that MexR represses mexA-mexB-oprM expression directly. Consistent with the increased expression of the efflux operon in the mexR mutant, the mutant showed an increase (relative to its MexR+ parent) in resistance to several antimicrobial agents. Expression of a mexR-lacZ fusion increased threefold in a mexR knockout mutant, indicating that mexR is negatively autoregulated. OCR1, a nalB multidrug-resistant mutant which overproduces OprM, exhibited a greater than sevenfold increase in expression of a chromosomal mexA-phoA fusion compared with its parent. Introduction of a mexR knockout mutation in strain OCR1 eliminated this increase in efflux gene expression and, as expected, increased the susceptibility of the strain to a variety of antibiotics. The nucleotide sequences of the mexR genes of OCR1 and its parental strain revealed a single base substitution in the former which would cause a predicted substitution of Trp for Arg at position 69 of its mexR product. These data suggest that MexR possesses both repressor and activator function in vivo, the activator form being favored in nalB multidrug-resistant strains.
PMCID: PMC163466  PMID: 8878574
4.  Efflux pump regulatory genes mutations in multidrug resistance Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolated from wound infections in Isfahan hospitals 
Multidrug resistance Pseudomonas aeruginosa (MDR-P. aeruginosa) is a worldwide threat for public health. Hyperexpression of efflux pump systems (MexAB-OprM and MexCD-OprJ), which is a well-known mechanisms for MDR emerging, is controlled by regulatory genes, mexR and nfxB, respectively. The aim of this study was to evaluate point mutations in mexR and nfxB genes in MDR- P. aeruginosa isolated from wound infections.
Materials and Methods:
A total of 34 P. aeruginosa cultures obtained from wound infections were analyzed. Among them eight isolates identified as MDR-P. aeruginosa and were subjected to determination of mutations in mexR and nfxB genes.
We detected eight-point mutations in mexR and 12-point mutations in nfxB. The most common mutations were common G327-A (eight isolates), G384-A (eight isolates), G411-A (eight isolates). Mutations in A371-C and A372-C were the predominant substitution which was seen in nfxB. Amino acid substitutions were also found at position 124 and 126 for NfxB and MexR, respectively.
P. aeruginosa isolates with mutation in efflux pump regulatory genes such as mexR and nfxB could be a main factor contributed to antibiotic resistance and must be considered in antibiotic treatment.
PMCID: PMC4063115  PMID: 24949288
Efflux pump; mexR; nfxB; Pseudomonas aeruginosa
5.  Ciprofloxacin susceptibility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates from keratitis 
The British Journal of Ophthalmology  2003;87(10):1238-1240.
Aim: To examine the ciprofloxacin susceptibility of 106 Pseudomonas aeruginosa eye isolates from the United Kingdom, Denmark, India, the United States, and Australia, and to determine the molecular mechanisms of resistance.
Methods: Ciprofloxacin susceptibility was tested by an agar dilution method; genomic DNA corresponding to the quinolone target genes gyrA and parC, and the regulatory genes mexR and nfxB controlling drug efflux systems, was amplified by PCR and sequenced; multilocus enzyme electrophoresis was performed to examine the genetic relation among resistant strains.
Results: Three out of 90 keratitis isolates (3.3%), one from the United Kingdom and two from India, exhibited MIC values of 16 mg/l or 32 mg/l. The UK isolate had a mutation in gyrA (Thr83Ile), whereas the two Indian isolates showed mutations in both gyrA (Thr83Ile) and parC (Ser87Leu). The remaining isolates from keratitis, endophthalmitis, contact lens associated red eye (CLARE), and contact lens storage cases showed MIC values below 1 mg/l. Several allelic forms of gyrA and a single variation in the mexR gene product were detected in 10 ciprofloxacin susceptible strains.
Conclusions: The vast majority of eye isolates of P aeruginosa from European countries are fully susceptible to ciprofloxacin and the concentration of ciprofloxacin eye drops used for local treatment (3000 mg/l) exceeds MIC values for strains recorded as resistant. Mutations in more than one target gene were associated with higher MIC values.
PMCID: PMC1920786  PMID: 14507757
Pseudomonas aeruginosa; ciprofloxacin; keratitis
6.  Interplay of Efflux System, ampC, and oprD Expression in Carbapenem Resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Clinical Isolates 
Carbapenems are important agents for the therapy of infections due to multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa; the development of carbapenem resistance hampers effective therapeutic options. To assess the mechanisms leading to resistance, 33 clinical isolates with differing degrees of carbapenem susceptibility were analyzed for the expression of the chromosomal β-lactamase (ampC), the porin that is important for the entry of carbapenems (oprD), and the proteins involved in four efflux systems (mexA, mexC, mexE, and mexX). Real-time reverse transcriptase PCR was performed using primers and fluorescent probes for each of the target genes. The sequencing of regulatory genes (ampR, mexR, nalC, nalD, mexT, and mexZ) was also performed. Diminished expression of oprD was present in all imipenem- and meropenem-resistant isolates but was not required for ertapenem resistance. Increased expression of ampC was not observed in several isolates that were overtly resistant to carbapenems. Increased expression of several efflux systems was observed in many of the carbapenem-resistant isolates. Increased efflux activity correlated with high-level ertapenem resistance and reduced susceptibility to meropenem and aztreonam. Most isolates with increased expression of mexA had mutations affecting nalC and/or nalD. Two isolates with mutations leading to a premature stop codon in mexZ had markedly elevated mexX expressions, although mutations in mexZ were not a prerequisite for overexpression. β-Lactam resistance in clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa is a result of the interplay between diminished production of oprD, increased activity of ampC, and several efflux systems.
PMCID: PMC1472219  PMID: 16641429
7.  Clinical Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Overproducing MexAB-OprM and MexXY Efflux Pumps Simultaneously 
Simultaneous overexpression of the MexAB-OprM and MexXY efflux systems was demonstrated by real-time reverse transcription-PCR and immunoblotting experiments for 12 multiresistant clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. DNA sequencing analysis showed that nine of these strains (named agrZ mutants) harbored mutations in mexZ, the product of which downregulates the expression of the mexXY operon. In addition, 8 of the 12 strains exhibited mutations in genes known to control transcription of the mexAB-oprM operon. Four of them were nalB mutants with alterations in the repressor gene mexR, three of them appeared to be nalC mutants deficient in gene PA3721 and overexpressing gene PA3720, and one strain was a nalB nalC double mutant. For MexAB-OprM as well as for MexXY, no clear correlation could be established between (i) the types of mutations, (ii) the expression level of mexA or mexX, and (iii) resistance to effluxed antibiotics. Finally, three isolates, named agrW mutants, overproduced MexXY and had an intact mexZ gene, and four strains overproduced MexAB-OprM and had intact mexR and PA3721 genes (nalD mutants). These data show that clinical isolates are able to broaden their drug resistance profiles by coexpressing two Mex efflux pumps and suggest the existence of additional regulators for MexAB-OprM and MexXY.
PMCID: PMC400543  PMID: 15105137
8.  Quantitative Contributions of Target Alteration and Decreased Drug Accumulation to Pseudomonas aeruginosa Fluoroquinolone Resistance 
Quinolone antibiotics constitute a clinically successful and widely used class of broad-spectrum antibiotics; however, the emergence and spread of resistance increasingly limits the use of fluoroquinolones in the treatment and management of microbial disease. In this study, we evaluated the quantitative contributions of quinolone target alteration and efflux pump expression to fluoroquinolone resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We generated isogenic mutations in hot spots of the quinolone resistance-determining regions (QRDRs) of gyrA, gyrB, and parC and inactivated the efflux regulator genes so as to overexpress the corresponding multidrug resistance (MDR) efflux pumps. We then introduced the respective mutations into the reference strain PA14 singly and in various combinations. Whereas the combined inactivation of two efflux regulator-encoding genes did not lead to resistance levels higher than those obtained by inactivation of only one efflux regulator-encoding gene, the combination of mutations leading to increased efflux and target alteration clearly exhibited an additive effect. This combination of target alteration and overexpression of efflux pumps was commonly observed in clinical P. aeruginosa isolates; however, these two mechanisms were frequently found not to be sufficient to explain the level of fluoroquinolone resistance. Our results suggest that there are additional mechanisms, independent of the expression of the MexAB-OprM, MexCD-OprJ, MexEF-OprN, and/or MexXY-OprM efflux pump, that increase ciprofloxacin resistance in isolates with mutations in the QRDRs.
PMCID: PMC3591863  PMID: 23274661
9.  Protein Modulator of Multidrug Efflux Gene Expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(15):5441-5451.
nalC multidrug-resistant mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa show enhanced expression of the mexAB-oprM multidrug efflux system as a direct result of the production of a ca. 6,100-Da protein, PA3719, in these mutants. Using a bacterial two-hybrid system, PA3719 was shown to interact in vivo with MexR, a repressor of mexAB-oprM expression. Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) studies confirmed a high-affinity interaction (equilibrium dissociation constant [KD], 158.0 ± 18.1 nM) of PA3719 with MexR in vitro. PA3719 binding to and formation of a complex with MexR obviated repressor binding to its operator, which overlaps the efflux operon promoter, suggesting that mexAB-oprM hyperexpression in nalC mutants results from PA3719 modulation of MexR repressor activity. Consistent with this, MexR repression of mexA transcription in an in vitro transcription assay was alleviated by PA3719. Mutations in MexR compromising its interaction with PA3719 in vivo were isolated and shown to be located internally and distributed throughout the protein, suggesting that they impacted PA3719 binding by altering MexR structure or conformation rather than by having residues interacting specifically with PA3719. Four of six mutant MexR proteins studied retained repressor activity even in a nalC strain producing PA3719. Again, this is consistent with a PA3719 interaction with MexR being necessary to obviate MexR repressor activity. The gene encoding PA3719 has thus been renamed armR (antirepressor for MexR). A representative “noninteracting” mutant MexR protein, MexRI104F, was purified, and ITC confirmed that it bound PA3719 with reduced affinity (5.4-fold reduced; KD, 853.2 ± 151.1 nM). Consistent with this, MexRI104F repressor activity, as assessed using the in vitro transcription assay, was only weakly compromised by PA3719. Finally, two mutations (L36P and W45A) in ArmR compromising its interaction with MexR have been isolated and mapped to a putative C-terminal α-helix of the protein that alone is sufficient for interaction with MexR.
PMCID: PMC1951821  PMID: 17545281
10.  A Two-Component Regulatory System Interconnects Resistance to Polymyxins, Aminoglycosides, Fluoroquinolones, and β-Lactams in Pseudomonas aeruginosa▿  
Constitutive overexpression of the active efflux system MexXY/OprM is a major cause of resistance to aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones, and cefepime in clinical strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Upregulation of this pump often results from mutations occurring in mexZ, the local repressor gene of the mexXY operon. In this study, analysis of MexXY-overproducing mutants selected in vitro from reference strain PAO1Bes on amikacin (at a concentration 1.5-fold higher than the MIC) led to identification of a new class of mutants harboring an intact mexZ gene and exhibiting increased resistance to colistin and imipenem in addition to aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones, and cefepime. Reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) experiments on a selected clone named PAOW2 demonstrated that mexXY overexpression was independent of mexZ and the PA5471 gene, which is required for drug-dependent induction of mexXY. Furthermore, the transcript levels of the oprD gene, which encodes the carbapenem-selective porin OprD, were found to be reduced drastically in PAOW2. Whole-genome sequencing revealed a single mutation resulting in an M59I substitution in the ParR protein, the response regulator of the ParRS two-component regulatory system (with ParS being the sensor kinase), which is required for adaptive resistance of P. aeruginosa to polycationic peptides such as colistin. The multidrug resistance phenotype was suppressed in PAOW2 by deletion of the parS and parRS genes and conferred to PAO1Bes by chromosomal insertion of the mutated parRS locus from PAOW2. As shown by transcriptomic analysis, only a very small number of genes were expressed differentially between PAOW2 and PAO1Bes, including the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) modification operon arnBCADTEF-ugd, responsible for resistance to polycationic agents. Exposure of wild-type PAO1Bes to different polycationic peptides, including colistin, was shown to result in increased mexY and repressed oprD expression via ParRS, independent of PA5471. In agreement with these results, colistin antagonized activity of the MexXY/OprM substrates in PAO1Bes but not in a ΔparRS derivative. Finally, screening of clinical strains exhibiting the PAOW2 resistance phenotype allowed the identification of additional alterations in ParRS. Collectively, our data indicate that ParRS may promote either induced or constitutive multidrug resistance to four different classes of antibiotics through the activation of three distinct mechanisms (efflux, porin loss, and LPS modification).
PMCID: PMC3067119  PMID: 21149619
11.  Effect of MexXY Overexpression on Ceftobiprole Susceptibility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa▿  
Ceftobiprole, an anti-methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus broad-spectrum cephalosporin, has activity (MIC for 50% of strains tested, ≤4 μg/ml) against many Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains. A common mechanism of P. aeruginosa resistance to β-lactams, including cefepime and ceftazidime, is efflux via increased expression of Mex pumps, especially MexAB. MexXY has differential substrate specificity, recognizing cefepime but not ceftazidime. In ceftobiprole clinical studies, paired isolates of P. aeruginosa from four subjects demonstrated ceftobiprole MICs of 2 to 4 μg/ml at baseline but 16 μg/ml posttreatment, unrelated to β-lactamase levels. Within each pair, the level of mexXY RNA, but not mexAB, mexCD, and mexEF, increased by an average of 50-fold from baseline to posttreatment isolates. Sequencing of the negative regulatory gene mexZ indicated that each posttreatment isolate contained a mutation not present at baseline. mexXY expression as a primary ceftobiprole and cefepime resistance mechanism was further examined in isogenic pairs by using cloned mexXY and mexZ. Expression of cloned mexXY in strain PAO1 or in a baseline isolate increased the ceftobiprole MIC to that for the posttreatment isolate. In contrast, in posttreatment isolates, lowering mexXY expression via introduction of cloned mexZ decreased the ceftobiprole MIC to that for the baseline isolates. Similar changes were observed for cefepime. A spontaneous mutant selectively overexpressing mexXY displayed a fourfold elevation in its ceftobiprole MIC, while overexpression of mexAB, -CD, and -EF had a minimal effect. These data indicate that ceftobiprole, like cefepime, is an atypical β-lactam that is a substrate for the MexXY efflux pump in P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC2704694  PMID: 19433554
12.  Multiple Mutations Lead to MexXY-OprM-Dependent Aminoglycoside Resistance in Clinical Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Constitutive overproduction of the pump MexXY-OprM is recognized as a major cause of resistance to aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones, and zwitterionic cephalosporins in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In this study, 57 clonally unrelated strains recovered from non-cystic fibrosis patients were analyzed to characterize the mutations resulting in upregulation of the mexXY operon. Forty-four (77.2%) of the strains, classified as agrZ mutants were found to harbor mutations inactivating the local repressor gene (mexZ) of the mexXY operon (n = 33; 57.9%) or introducing amino acid substitutions in its product, MexZ (n = 11; 19.3%). These sequence variations, which mapped in the dimerization domain, the DNA binding domain, or the rest of the MexZ structure, mostly affected amino acid positions conserved in TetR-like regulators. The 13 remaining MexXY-OprM strains (22.8%) contained intact mexZ genes encoding wild-type MexZ proteins. Eight (14.0%) of these isolates, classified as agrW1 mutants, overexpressed the gene PA5471, which codes for the MexZ antirepressor AmrZ, with 5 strains exhibiting growth defects at 37°C and 44°C, consistent with mutations impairing ribosome activity. Interestingly, one agrW1 mutant appeared to harbor a 7-bp deletion in the coding sequence of the leader peptide, PA5471.1, involved in ribosome-dependent, translational attenuation of PA5471 expression. Finally, DNA sequencing and complementation experiments revealed that 5 (8.8%) strains, classified as agrW2 mutants, harbored single amino acid variations in the sensor histidine kinase of ParRS, a two-component system known to positively control mexXY expression. Collectively, these results demonstrate that clinical strains of P. aeruginosa exploit different regulatory circuitries to mutationally overproduce the MexXY-OprM pump and become multidrug resistant, which accounts for the high prevalence of MexXY-OprM mutants in the clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC3910787  PMID: 24145539
13.  Molecular Mechanisms of Fluoroquinolone Resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Isolates from Cystic Fibrosis Patients 
Twenty P. aeruginosa isolates were collected from six cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, aged 27 to 33, in 1994 (9 isolates) and 1997 (11 isolates) at the CF Center, Copenhagen, Denmark, and were typed by pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) or ribotyping. Five of the patients had isolates with the same PFGE or ribotyping patterns in 1997 as in 1994, and ciprofloxacin had a two- to fourfold higher MIC for the isolates collected in 1997 than those from 1994. Genomic DNA was amplified for gyrA, parC, mexR, and nfxB by PCR and sequenced. Eleven isolates had mutations in gyrA, seven isolates had mutations at codon 83 (Thr to Ile), and four isolates had mutations at codon 87 (Asp to Asn or Tyr). Sixteen isolates had mutations in nfxB at codon 82 (Arg to Leu). Increased amounts of OprN were found in six isolates and OprJ in eight isolates as determined by immunoblotting. No isolates had mutations in parC or mexR. Six isolates had mutations in efflux pumps without gyrA mutations. The average number of mutations was higher in isolates from 1997 than in those from 1994. The results also suggested that efflux resistance mechanisms are more common in isolates from CF patients than in strains from urine and wounds from non-CF patients, in which mutations in gyrA and parC dominate (S. Jalal and B. Wretlind, Microb. Drug Resist. 4:257–261, 1998).
PMCID: PMC89751  PMID: 10681343
14.  Induction of the MexXY Efflux Pump in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Is Dependent on Drug-Ribosome Interaction 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(15):5341-5346.
MexXY is an inducible efflux system that contributes to the natural resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to antibiotics. Experiments involving real-time PCR after reverse transcription in reference strain PAO1 showed concentration-dependent induction of gene mexY by various ribosome inhibitors (e.g., chloramphenicol, tetracycline, macrolides, and aminoglycosides) but not by antibiotics acting on other cellular targets (e.g., β-lactams, fluoroquinolones). Confirming a functional link between the efflux system and the translational machinery, ribosome protection by plasmid-encoded proteins TetO and ErmBP increased the resistance of a ΔmexAB-oprM mutant of PAO1 to tetracycline and erythromycin, respectively, as well as the concentrations of both drugs required to induce mexY. Furthermore, spontaneous mutations resulting in specific resistance to dihydrostreptomycin or spectinomycin also raised the minimal drug concentration for mexXY induction in strain PAO1. While strongly upregulated in a PAO1 mutant defective in gene mexZ (which codes for a putative repressor of operon mexXY), gene mexY remained inducible by agents such as tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and spectinomycin, suggesting additional regulatory loci for mexXY. Altogether, these data demonstrate physiological interplays between MexXY and the ribosome and are suggestive of an alternative function for MexXY beyond antibiotic efflux.
PMCID: PMC1196038  PMID: 16030228
15.  Genetic Markers of Widespread Extensively Drug-Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa High-Risk Clones 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(12):6349-6357.
Recent reports have revealed the existence of widespread extensively drug-resistant (XDR) P. aeruginosa high-risk clones in health care settings, but there is still scarce information on their specific chromosomal (mutational) and acquired resistance mechanisms. Up to 20 (10.5%) of 190 bloodstream isolates collected from 10 Spanish hospitals met the XDR criteria. A representative number (15 per group) of isolates classified as multidrug-resistant (MDR) (22.6%), resistant to 1 to 2 classes (moderately resistant [modR]) (23.7%), or susceptible to all antibiotics (multiS) (43.2%) were investigated in parallel. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) analysis revealed that all XDR isolates belonged to sequence type 175 (ST175) (n = 19) or ST111 (n = 1), both recognized as international high-risk clones. Clonal diversity was higher among the 15 MDR isolates (4 ST175, 2 ST111, and 8 additional STs) and especially high among the 15 modR (13 different STs) and multiS (14 STs) isolates. The XDR/MDR pattern in ST111 isolates correlated with the production of VIM-2, but none of the ST175 isolates produced acquired β-lactamases. In contrast, the analysis of resistance markers in 12 representative isolates (from 7 hospitals) of ST175 revealed that the XDR pattern was driven by the combination of AmpC hyperproduction, OprD inactivation (Q142X), 3 mutations conferring high-level fluoroquinolone resistance (GyrA T83I and D87N and ParC S87W), a G195E mutation in MexZ (involved in MexXY-OprM overexpression), and the production of a class 1 integron harboring the aadB gene (gentamicin and tobramycin resistance). Of particular interest, in nearly all the ST175 isolates, AmpC hyperproduction was driven by a novel AmpR-activating mutation (G154R), as demonstrated by complementation studies using an ampR mutant of PAO1. This work is the first to describe the specific resistance markers of widespread P. aeruginosa XDR high-risk clones producing invasive infections.
PMCID: PMC3497190  PMID: 23045355
16.  Effect of Ciprofloxacin Concentration on the Frequency and Nature of Resistant Mutants Selected from Pseudomonas aeruginosa mutS and mutT Hypermutators▿† 
The rapid emergence of drug resistance upon treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections with fluoroquinolones is a serious concern. In this study, we report the effect of hypermutability on the mutant selection window for ciprofloxacin (CIP) by comparing the hypermutator MPAO1 mutS and mutT strains with the wild-type strain. The mutant selection window was shifted to higher CIP concentrations for both hypermutators, presenting the mutS strain with a broader selection window in comparison to the wild-type strain. The mutation prevention concentrations (MPC) determined for mutT and mutS strains were increased 2- and 4-fold over the wild-type level, respectively. In addition, we analyzed the molecular bases for resistance in the bacterial subpopulations selected at different points in the window. At the top of the window, the resistant clones isolated were mainly mutated in GyrA and ParC topoisomerase subunits, while at the bottom of the window, resistance was associated with the overexpression of MexCD-OprJ and MexAB-OprM efflux pumps. Accordingly, a greater proportion of multidrug-resistant clones were found among the subpopulations isolated at the lower CIP concentrations. Furthermore, we found that the exposure to CIP subinhibitory concentrations favors the accumulation of cells overexpressing MexCD-OprJ (due to mutations in the transcriptional repressor NfxB) and MexAB-OprM efflux pumps. We discuss these results in the context of the possible participation of this antibiotic in a mutagenic process.
PMCID: PMC3147628  PMID: 21646492
17.  Identification and Characterization of Inhibitors of Multidrug Resistance Efflux Pumps in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Novel Agents for Combination Therapy 
Whole-cell assays were implemented to search for efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) of the three multidrug resistance efflux pumps (MexAB-OprM, MexCD-OprJ, MexEF-OprN) that contribute to fluoroquinolone resistance in clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Secondary assays were developed to identify lead compounds with exquisite activities as inhibitors. A broad-spectrum EPI which is active against all three known Mex efflux pumps from P. aeruginosa and their close Escherichia coli efflux pump homolog (AcrAB-TolC) was discovered. When this compound, MC-207,110, was used, the intrinsic resistance of P. aeruginosa to fluoroquinolones was decreased significantly (eightfold for levofloxacin). Acquired resistance due to the overexpression of efflux pumps was also decreased (32- to 64-fold reduction in the MIC of levofloxacin). Similarly, 32- to 64-fold reductions in MICs in the presence of MC-207,110 were observed for strains with overexpressed efflux pumps and various target mutations that confer resistance to levofloxacin (e.g., gyrA and parC). We also compared the frequencies of emergence of levofloxacin-resistant variants in the wild-type strain at four times the MIC of levofloxacin (1 μg/ml) when it was used either alone or in combination with EPI. In the case of levofloxacin alone, the frequency was ∼10−7 CFU/ml. In contrast, with an EPI, the frequency was below the level of detection (<10−11). In summary, we have demonstrated that inhibition of efflux pumps (i) decreased the level of intrinsic resistance significantly, (ii) reversed acquired resistance, and (iii) resulted in a decreased frequency of emergence of P. aeruginosa strains that are highly resistant to fluoroquinolones.
PMCID: PMC90247  PMID: 11120952
18.  Application of a mathematical model to prevent in vivo amplification of antibiotic-resistant bacterial populations during therapy 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(2):275-285.
The worldwide increase in the prevalence of multi-antibiotic–resistant bacteria has threatened the physician’s ability to provide appropriate therapy for infections. The relationship between antimicrobial drug concentration and infecting pathogen population reduction is of primary interest. Using data derived from mice infected with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa and treated with a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, a mathematical model was developed that described relationships between antimicrobial drug exposures and changes in drug-susceptible and -resistant bacterial subpopulations at an infection site. Dosing regimens and consequent drug exposures that amplify or suppress the emergence of resistant bacterial subpopulations were identified and prospectively validated. Resistant clones selected in vivo by suboptimal regimens were characterized. No mutations were identified in the quinolone resistance–determining regions of gyrA/B or parC/E. However, all resistant clones demonstrated efflux pump overexpression. At base line, MexAB-OprM, MexCD-OprJ, and MexEF-OprN were represented in the drug-resistant population. After 28 hours of therapy, MexCD-OprJ became the predominant pump expressed in the resistant clones. The likelihood of achieving resistance-suppression exposure in humans with a clinically prescribed antibiotic dose was determined. The methods developed in this study provide insight regarding how mathematical models can be used to identify rational dosing regimens that suppress the amplification of the resistant mutant population.
PMCID: PMC164285  PMID: 12865415
19.  Efflux-Mediated Resistance to Tigecycline (GAR-936) in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 
Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains are less susceptible to tigecycline (previously GAR-936; MIC, 8 μg/ml) than many other bacteria (P. J. Petersen, N. V. Jacobus, W. J. Weiss, P. E. Sum, and R. T. Testa, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 43:738-744, 1999). To elucidate the mechanism of resistance to tigecycline, P. aeruginosa PAO1 strains defective in the MexAB-OprM and/or MexXY (OprM) efflux pumps were tested for susceptibility to tigecycline. Increased susceptibility to tigecycline (MIC, 0.5 to 1 μg/ml) was specifically associated with loss of MexXY. Transcription of mexX and mexY was also responsive to exposure of cells to tigecycline. To test for the emergence of compensatory efflux pumps in the absence of MexXY-OprM, mutants lacking MexXY-OprM were plated on medium containing tigecycline at 4 or 6 μg/ml. Resistant mutants were readily recovered, and these also had decreased susceptibility to several other antibiotics, suggesting efflux pump recruitment. One representative carbenicillin-resistant strain overexpressed OprM, the outer membrane channel component of the MexAB-OprM efflux pump. The mexAB-oprM repressor gene, mexR, from this strain contained a 15-bp in-frame deletion. Two representative chloramphenicol-resistant strains showed expression of an outer membrane protein slightly larger than OprM. The mexCD-OprJ repressor gene, nfxB, from these mutants contained a 327-bp in-frame deletion and an IS element insertion, respectively. Together, these data indicated drug efflux mediated by MexCD-OprJ. The MICs of the narrower-spectrum semisynthetic tetracyclines doxycycline and minocycline increased more substantially than did those of tigecycline and other glycylcyclines against the MexAB-OprM- and MexCD-OprJ-overexpressing mutant strains. This suggests that glycylcyclines, although they are subject to efflux from P. aeruginosa, are generally inferior substrates for P. aeruginosa efflux pumps than are narrower-spectrum tetracyclines.
PMCID: PMC149306  PMID: 12604529
20.  Type II Topoisomerase Mutations in Ciprofloxacin-Resistant Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
We determined the sequences of the quinolone resistance-determining regions of gyrA, gyrB, and parC genes for 30 clinical strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa resistant to ciprofloxacin that were previously complemented by wild-type gyrA and gyrB plasmid-borne alleles and studied for their coresistance to imipenem (E. Cambau, E. Perani, C. Dib, C. Petinon, J. Trias, and V. Jarlier, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 39:2248–2252, 1995). In the present study, we found mutations in type II topoisomerase genes for all strains. Twenty-eight strains had a missense mutation in gyrA (codon 83 or 87). Ten of them had an additional mutation in parC (codon 80 or 84), including a novel mutation of Ser-80 to Trp, but all were fully complemented by a plasmid-borne wild-type gyrA allele. The remaining two strains harbored the first gyrB mutation described in P. aeruginosa, leading to the substitution of phenylalanine for serine 464. The strains which had two mutations in type II topoisomerase genes (i.e., gyrA and parC) were significantly more resistant to fluoroquinolones than those with a single mutation in gyrA or gyrB (geometric mean MICs of ciprofloxacin, 39.4 versus 10.9 μg/ml, P < 0.01; geometric mean MICs of sparfloxacin, 64.0 versus 22.6, P < 0.01). No mutant with a parC mutation alone was observed, which favors DNA gyrase being the primary target for fluoroquinolones. These results demonstrate that gyrA mutations are the major mechanism of resistance to fluoroquinolones for clinical strains of P. aeruginosa and that additional mutations in parC lead to a higher level of quinolone resistance.
PMCID: PMC89021  PMID: 9869566
21.  Involvement of an Active Efflux System in the Natural Resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to Aminoglycosides 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  1999;43(11):2624-2628.
A mutant, named 11B, hypersusceptible to aminoglycosides, tetracycline, and erythromycin was isolated after Tn501 insertion mutagenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. Cloning and sequencing experiments showed that 11B was deficient in an, at that time, unknown active efflux system that contains homologs of MexAB. This locus also contained a putative regulatory gene, mexZ, transcribed divergently from the efflux operon. Introduction of a recombinant plasmid that carries the genes of the efflux system restored the resistance of 11B to parental levels, whereas overexpression of these genes strongly increased the MICs of substrate antibiotics for the PAO1 host. Antibiotic accumulation studies confirmed that this new system is an energy-dependent active efflux system that pumps out aminoglycosides. Furthermore, this system appeared to function with an outer membrane protein, OprM. While the present paper was being written and reviewed, genes with a sequence identical to our pump genes, mexXY of P. aeruginosa, have been reported to increase resistance to erythromycin, fluoroquinolones, and organic cations in Escherichia coli hosts, although efflux of aminoglycosides was not examined (Mine et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 43:415–417, 1999). Our study thus shows that the MexXY system plays an important role in the intrinsic resistance of P. aeruginosa to aminoglycosides. Although overexpression of MexXY increased the level of resistance to fluoroquinolones, disruption of the mexXY operon in P. aeruginosa had no detectable effect on susceptibility to these agents.
PMCID: PMC89534  PMID: 10543738
22.  Mucoidy, Quorum Sensing, Mismatch Repair and Antibiotic Resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa from Cystic Fibrosis Chronic Airways Infections 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12669.
Survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis (CF) chronic infections is based on a genetic adaptation process consisting of mutations in specific genes, which can produce advantageous phenotypic switches and ensure its persistence in the lung. Among these, mutations inactivating the regulators MucA (alginate biosynthesis), LasR (quorum sensing) and MexZ (multidrug-efflux pump MexXY) are the most frequently observed, with those inactivating the DNA mismatch repair system (MRS) being also highly prevalent in P. aeruginosa CF isolates, leading to hypermutator phenotypes that could contribute to this adaptive mutagenesis by virtue of an increased mutation rate. Here, we characterized the mutations found in the mucA, lasR, mexZ and MRS genes in P. aeruginosa isolates obtained from Argentinean CF patients, and analyzed the potential association of mucA, lasR and mexZ mutagenesis with MRS-deficiency and antibiotic resistance. Thus, 38 isolates from 26 chronically infected CF patients were characterized for their phenotypic traits, PFGE genotypic patterns, mutations in the mucA, lasR, mexZ, mutS and mutL gene coding sequences and antibiotic resistance profiles. The most frequently mutated gene was mexZ (79%), followed by mucA (63%) and lasR (39%) as well as a high prevalence (42%) of hypermutators being observed due to loss-of-function mutations in mutL (60%) followed by mutS (40%). Interestingly, mutational spectra were particular to each gene, suggesting that several mechanisms are responsible for mutations during chronic infection. However, no link could be established between hypermutability and mutagenesis in mucA, lasR and mexZ, indicating that MRS-deficiency was not involved in the acquisition of these mutations. Finally, although inactivation of mucA, lasR and mexZ has been previously shown to confer resistance/tolerance to antibiotics, only mutations in MRS genes could be related to an antibiotic resistance increase. These results help to unravel the mutational dynamics that lead to the adaptation of P. aeruginosa to the CF lung.
PMCID: PMC2937033  PMID: 20844762
23.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa Syntrophy in Chronically Colonized Airways of Cystic Fibrosis Patients 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(11):5971-5981.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients undergo remarkable phenotypic divergence over time, including loss of pigmentation, hemolysis, motility, and quorum sensing and emergence of antibiotic hypersusceptibility and/or auxotrophism. With prolonged antibiotic treatment and steady decline in lung function in chronically infected patients, the divergent characteristics associated with CF isolates have traditionally been regarded as “adapted/unusual virulence,” despite the degenerative nature of these adaptations. We examined the phenotypic and genotypic diversity in clonally related isogenic strains of P. aeruginosa from individual CF patients. Our observations support a novel model of intra-airway pseudomonal syntrophy and accompanying loss of virulence. A 2007 calendar year collection of CF P. aeruginosa isolates (n = 525) from 103 CF patients yielded in vitro MICs of sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (SMX-TMP, which typically has no activity against P. aeruginosa) ranging from 0.02 to >32 μg/ml (median, 1.5). Coisolation of clonally related SMX-TMP-susceptible and -resistant P. aeruginosa strains from the same host was common (57%), as were isogenic coisolates with mutations in efflux gene determinants (mexR, mexAB-oprM, and mexZ) and genes governing DNA mismatch repair (mutL and mutS). In this cohort, complete in vitro growth complementation between auxotrophic and prototrophic P. aeruginosa isogenic strains was evident and concurrent with the coding sequence mosaicism in resistance determinants. These observations suggest that syntrophic clonal strains evolve in situ in an organized colonial structure. We propose that P. aeruginosa adopts a multicellular lifestyle in CF patients due to host selection of an energetically favorable, less-virulent microbe restricted within and symbiotic with the airway over the host's lifetime.
PMCID: PMC3486535  PMID: 22964251
24.  Assignment of the Substrate-Selective Subunits of the MexEF-OprN Multidrug Efflux Pump of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Pseudomonas aeruginosa expresses a low level of the MexAB-OprM efflux pump and shows natural resistance to many structurally and functionally diverse antibiotics. The mutation that has been referred to previously as nfxC expresses an additional efflux pump, MexEF-OprN, exhibiting resistance to fluoroquinolones, imipenem, and chloramphenicol and hypersusceptibility to β-lactam antibiotics. To address the antibiotic specificity of the MexEF-OprN efflux pump, we introduced a plasmid carrying the mexEF-oprN operon into P. aeruginosa lacking the mexAB-oprM operon. The transformants exhibited resistance to fluoroquinolones, trimethoprim, and chloramphenicol but, unlike most nfxC-type mutants, did not show β-lactam hypersusceptibility. The transformants exhibited additional resistance to tetracycline. In the next experiment, we analyzed the MexEF-OprN pump subunit(s) responsible for substrate selectivity by expressing MexE, MexF, OprN, and MexEF in strains lacking MexA, MexB, OprM, and MexAB, respectively. The MexEF-OprM/ΔMexAB transformants exhibited MexEF-OprN-type pump function that rendered the strains resistant to fluoroquinolones and chloramphenicol but did not change susceptibility to β-lactam antibiotics compared with the host strain. The MexAB-OprN/ΔOprM, MexAF-OprM/ΔMexB, and MexEB-OprM/ΔMexA mutants exhibited antibiotic susceptibility indistinguishable from that in the mutant lacking both types of efflux pumps. The results imply that the MexEF-OprM pump selects substrates by a MexEF functional unit. Interestingly, OprN did not link functionally with the MexAB complex, despite the fact that OprM interacted functionally with MexEF.
PMCID: PMC89743  PMID: 10681335
25.  Characterization of the MexC-MexD-OprJ Multidrug Efflux System in ΔmexA-mexB-oprM Mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Expression of the multidrug efflux system MexC-MexD-OprJ in nfxB mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa contributes to resistance to fluoroquinolones and the “fourth-generation” cephems (cefpirome and cefozopran), but not to most β-lactams, including the ordinary cephems (ceftazidime and cefoperazone). nfxB mutants also express a second multidrug efflux system, MexA-MexB-OprM, due to incomplete transcriptional repression of this operon by the mexR gene product. To characterize the contribution of the MexC-MexD-OprJ system to drug resistance in P. aeruginosa, a site-specific deletion method was employed to remove the mexA-mexB-oprM region from the chromosome of wild-type and nfxB strains of P. aeruginosa. Characterization of mutants lacking the mexA-mexB-oprM region clearly indicated that the MexC-MexD-OprJ efflux system is involved in resistance to the ordinary cephems as well as fluoroquinolones and the fourth-generation cephems but not to carbenicillin and aztreonam. Rabbit polyclonal antisera and murine monoclonal antibody against the components of the MexA-MexB-OprM system were prepared and used to demonstrate the reduced production of this efflux system in the nfxB mutants. Consistent with this, transcription of the mexA-mexB-oprM operon decreased in an nfxB mutant. This reduction appears to explain the hypersusceptibility of the nfxB mutant to β-lactams, including ordinary cephems.
PMCID: PMC105713  PMID: 9687387

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