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.
Efflux pumps function to rid bacteria of xenobiotics, including antibiotics, bile salts, and organic solvents. TolC, which forms an outer membrane channel, is an essential component of several efflux pumps in Escherichia coli. We asked whether TolC has a role during growth in the absence of xenobiotics. Because tolC transcription is activated by three paralogous activators, MarA, SoxS, and Rob, we examined the regulation of these activators in tolC mutants. Using transcriptional fusions, we detected significant upregulation of marRAB and soxS transcription and Rob protein activity in tolC mutants. Three mechanisms could be distinguished: (i) activation of marRAB transcription was independent of marRAB, soxR, and rob functions; (ii) activation of soxS transcription required SoxR, a sensor of oxidants; and (iii) Rob protein was activated posttranscriptionally. This mechanism is similar to the mechanisms of upregulation of marRAB, soxS, and Rob by treatment with certain phenolics, superoxides, and bile salts, respectively. The transcription of other marA/soxS/rob regulon promoters, including tolC itself, was also elevated in tolC mutants. We propose that TolC is involved in the efflux of certain cellular metabolites, not only xenobiotics. As these metabolites accumulate during growth, they trigger the upregulation of MarA, SoxS, and Rob, which in turn upregulate tolC and help rid the bacteria of these metabolites, thereby restoring homeostasis.
Escherichia coli K-12 strains are normally tolerant to n-hexane and susceptible to cyclohexane. Constitutive expression of marA of the multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) locus or of the soxS or robA gene product produced tolerance to cyclohexane. Inactivation of the mar locus or the robA locus, but not the soxRS locus, increased organic solvent susceptibility in the wild type and Mar mutants (to both n-hexane and cyclohexane). The organic solvent hypersusceptibility is a newly described phenotype for a robA-inactivated strain. Multicopy expression of mar, soxS, or robA induced cyclohexane tolerance in strains with a deleted or inactivated chromosomal mar, soxRS, or robA locus; thus, each transcriptional activator acts independently of the others. However, in a strain with 39 kb of chromosomal DNA, including the mar locus, deleted, only the multicopy complete mar locus, consisting of its two operons, produced cyclohexane tolerance. Deletion of acrAB from either wild-type E. coli K-12 or a Mar mutant resulted in loss of tolerance to both n-hexane and cyclohexane. Organic solvent tolerance mediated by mar, soxS, or robA was not restored in strains with acrAB deleted. These findings strongly suggest that active efflux specified by the acrAB locus is linked to intrinsic organic solvent tolerance and to tolerance mediated by the marA, soxS, or robA gene product in E. coli.
Elevated levels of fluoroquinolone resistance are frequently found among Escherichia coli clinical isolates. This study investigated the antibiotic resistance mechanisms of strain NorE5, derived in vitro by exposing an E. coli clinical isolate, PS5, to two selection steps with increasing concentrations of norfloxacin. In addition to the amino acid substitution in GyrA (S83L) present in PS5, NorE5 has an amino acid change in ParC (S80R). Furthermore, we now find by Western blotting that NorE5 has a multidrug resistance phenotype resulting from the overexpression of the antibiotic resistance efflux pump AcrAB-TolC. Microarray and gene fusion analyses revealed significantly increased expression in NorE5 of soxS, a transcriptional activator of acrAB and tolC. The high soxS activity is attributable to a frameshift mutation that truncates SoxR, rendering it a constitutive transcriptional activator of soxS. Furthermore, microarray and reverse transcription-PCR analyses showed that mdtG (yceE), encoding a putative efflux pump, is overexpressed in the resistant strain. SoxS, MarA, and Rob activated an mdtG::lacZ fusion, and SoxS was shown to bind to the mdtG promoter, showing that mdtG is a member of the marA-soxS-rob regulon. The mdtG marbox sequence is in the backward or class I orientation within the promoter, and its disruption resulted in a loss of inducibility by MarA, SoxS, and Rob. Thus, chromosomal mutations in parC and soxR are responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance of NorE5.
Bacteria possess multiple mechanisms to survive exposure to various chemical stresses and antimicrobial compounds. In the enteric bacterium Escherichia coli, three homologous transcription factors—MarA, SoxS, and Rob—play a central role in coordinating this response. Three separate systems are known to regulate the expression and activities of MarA, SoxS, and Rob. However, a number of studies have shown that the three do not function in isolation but rather are coregulated through transcriptional cross talk. In this work, we systematically investigated the extent of transcriptional cross talk in the mar-sox-rob regulon. While the three transcription factors were found to have the potential to regulate each other's expression when ectopically expressed, the only significant interactions observed under physiological conditions were between mar and rob systems. MarA, SoxS, and Rob all activate the marRAB promoter, more so when they are induced by their respective inducers: salicylate, paraquat, and decanoate. None of the three proteins affects the soxS promoter, though unexpectedly, it was mildly repressed by decanoate by an unknown mechanism. SoxS is the only one of the three proteins to repress the rob promoter. Surprisingly, salicylate somewhat activates transcription of rob, while decanoate represses it a bit. Rob, in turn, activates not only its downstream promoters in response to salicylate but also the marRAB promoter. These results demonstrate that the mar and rob systems function together in response to salicylate.
Transcriptional activation of the promoters of the mar/soxRS regulons by the sequence-related but independently inducible MarA and SoxS proteins renders Escherichia coli resistant to a broad spectrum of antibiotics and superoxide generators. Here, the effects of MarA and SoxS on transcription of the marRAB promoter itself were assayed in vitro by using a minimal transcription system and in vivo by assaying beta-galactosidase synthesized from marR::lacZ fusions. Purified MarA and MalE-SoxS proteins stimulated mar transcription about 6- and 15-fold, respectively, when the RNA polymerase/DNA ratio was 1. Purified MarA bound as a monomer to a 16-bp "marbox" located 69 to 54 nucleotides upstream of a putative RNA initiation site. Deletion of the marbox reduced MarA-mar binding 100-fold, abolished the stimulatory effects of MarA and SoxS on transcription in vitro, and reduced marR::lacZ synthesis about 4-fold in vivo. Deletion of upstream DNA adjoining the marbox reduced MarA binding efficiency 30-fold and transcriptional activation 2- to 3-fold, providing evidence for an accessory marbox. Although MarA and the mar operon repressor, MarR, bound to independent sites, they competed for promoter DNA in band shift experiments. Assays of marR::lacZ transcriptional fusions in marRAB deletion or soxRS deletion strains showed that the superoxide generator paraquat stimulates mar transcription via soxRS and that salicylate stimulates mar transcription both by antagonizing MarR and by a MarR-independent mechanism. Thus, transcription of the marRAB operon is autorepressed by MarR and autoactivated by MarA at a site that also can be activated by SoxS.
Multiple antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli can be mediated by induction of the SoxS or MarA protein, triggered by oxygen radicals (in the soxRS regulon) or certain antibiotics (in the marRAB regulon), respectively. These small proteins (SoxS, 107 residues; MarA, 127 residues) are homologous to the C terminus of the XylS-AraC family of proteins and are more closely related to a approximately 100-residue segment in the N terminus of Rob protein, which binds the right arm of the replication origin, oriC. We investigated whether the SoxS-MarA homology in Rob might extend to the regulation of some of the same inducible genes. Overexpression of Rob indeed conferred multiple antibiotic resistance similar to that known for SoxS and MarA (against chloramphenicol, tetracycline, nalidixic acid, and puromycin), as well as resistance to the superoxide-generating compound phenazine methosulfate. The Rob-induced antibiotic resistance depended only partially on the micF antisense RNA that down-regulates the OmpF outer membrane porin to limit antibiotic uptake. Similar antibiotic resistance was conferred by expression of a Rob fragment containing only the N-terminal 123 residues that constitute the SoxS-MarA homology. Both intact Rob and the N-terminal fragment activated expression of stress genes (inaA, fumC, sodA) but with a pattern distinct from that found for SoxS and MarA. Purified Rob protein bound a DNA fragment containing the micF promoter (50% bound at approximately 10(-9) M Rob) as strongly as it did oriC, and it bound more weakly to DNA containing the sodA, nfo, or zwf promoter (50% bound at 10(-8) to 10(-7) M). Rob formed multiple DNA-protein complexes with these fragments, as seen previously for SoxS. These data point to a DNA-binding gene activator module used in different protein contexts.
Transcriptional regulators of the AraC/XylS family have been associated with multidrug resistance, organic solvent tolerance, oxidative stress, and virulence in clinically relevant enterobacteria. In the present study, we identified four homologous AraC/XylS regulators, Rob, SoxS, PliA, and OpiA, from the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora Ea1189. Previous studies have shown that the regulators MarA, Rob, and SoxS from Escherichia coli mediate multiple-antibiotic resistance, primarily by upregulating the AcrAB-TolC efflux system. However, none of the four AraC/XylS regulators from E. amylovora was able to induce a multidrug resistance phenotype in the plant pathogen. Overexpression of rob led to a 2-fold increased expression of the acrA gene. However, the rob-overexpressing strain showed increased resistance to only a limited number of antibiotics. Furthermore, Rob was able to induce tolerance to organic solvents in E. amylovora by mechanisms other than efflux. We demonstrated that SoxS from E. amylovora is involved in superoxide resistance. A soxS-deficient mutant of Ea1189 was not able to grow on agar plates supplemented with the superoxide-generating agent paraquat. Furthermore, expression of soxS was induced by redox cycling agents. We identified two novel members of the AraC/XylS family in E. amylovora. PliA was highly upregulated during the early infection phase in apple rootstock and immature pear fruits. Multiple compounds were able to induce the expression of pliA, including apple leaf extracts, phenolic compounds, redox cycling agents, heavy metals, and decanoate. OpiA was shown to play a role in the regulation of osmotic and alkaline pH stress responses.
Transcription of the multiple antibiotic resistance marRAB operon increases when one of the sequence-related activators, MarA, SoxS, or Rob, binds to the "marbox" centered at -61.5 relative to the transcriptional start site. Previous deletion analyses showed that an adjacent upstream "accessory region" was needed to augment the marbox-dependent activation. To analyze the roles of the marbox and accessory regions on mar transcription, thirteen promoters, each with a different 5-bp transversion of the -96 to -32 sequence, were synthesized, fused to lacZ, and assayed for beta-galactosidase production in single-copy lysogens with appropriate genotypes. The accessory region is shown here to be a binding site for Fis centered at -81 and to bind Fis, a small DNA-binding and -bending protein, with a Kd of approximately 5 nM. The binding of MarA to the marbox and that of Fis to its site were independent of each other. MarA, SoxS, and Rob each activated the mar promoter 1.5-to 2-fold when it had a wild-type marbox but Fis was absent. In the presence of MarA, SoxS, or Rob, Fis further enhanced the activity of the promoter twofold provided the promoter was also capable of binding Fis. However, in the absence of MarA, SoxS, or Rob or in the absence of a wild-type marbox, Fis nonspecifically lowered the activity of the mar promoter about 25% whether or not a wild-type Fis site was present. Thus, Fis acts as an accessory transcriptional activator at the mar promoter.
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 marRAB operon is a regulatory locus that controls multiple drug resistance in Escherichia coli. marA encodes a positive regulator of the antibiotic resistance response, acting by altering the expression of unlinked genes. marR encodes a repressor of marRAB transcription and controls the production of MarA in response to environmental signals. A molecular and genetic study of the homologous operon in Salmonella typhimurium was undertaken, and the role of marA in virulence in a murine model was assessed. Expression of E. coli marA (marAEC) present on a multicopy plasmid in S. typhimurium resulted in a multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) phenotype, suggesting that a similar regulon exists in this organism. A genomic plasmid library containing S. typhimurium chromosomal sequences was introduced into an E. coli strain that was deleted for the mar locus and contained a single-copy marR'-'lacZ translational fusion. Plasmid clones that contained both S. typhimurium marR (marRSt) and marA (marASt) genes were identified as those that were capable of repressing expression of the fusion and which resulted in a Mar phenotype. The predicted amino acid sequences of MarRSt, MarASt, and MarBSt were 91, 86, and 42% identical, respectively, to the same genes from E. coli, while the operator/promoter region of the operon was 86% identical to the same 98-nucleotide-upstream region in E. coli. The marRAB transcriptional start sites for both organisms were determined by primer extension, and a marRABSt transcript of approximately 1.1 kb was identified by Northern blot analysis. Its accumulation was shown to be inducible by sodium salicylate. Open reading frames flanking the marRAB operon were also conserved. An S. typhimurium marA disruption strain was constructed by an allelic exchange method and compared to the wild-type strain for virulence in a murine BALB/c infection model. No effect on virulence was noted. The endogenous S. typhimurium plasmid that is associated with virulence played no role in marA-mediated multiple antibiotic resistance. Taken together, the data show that the S. typhimurium mar locus is structurally and functionally similar to marRABEc and that a lesion in marASt has no effect on S. typhimurium virulence for BALB/c mice.
The paralogous transcriptional activators, MarA, SoxS and Rob, activate a common set of promoters, the marA/soxS/rob regulon of Escherichia coli, by binding a cognate site (marbox) upstream of each promoter. The extent of activation varies from one promoter to another and is only poorly correlated with the in vitro affinity of the activator for the specific marbox. Here, we examine the dependence of promoter activation on the level of activator in vivo by manipulating the steady-state concentrations of MarA and SoxS in Lon protease mutants and measuring promoter activation using lacZ transcriptional fusions. We found that: (i) the MarA concentrations needed for half-maximal stimulation varied by at least 19-fold among the 10 promoters tested; (ii) most marboxes were not saturated when there were 24,000 molecules of MarA per cell; (iii) the correlation between MarA concentration needed for half-maximal promoter activity in vivo with marbox binding affinity in vitro was poor and (iv) the two activators differed in their promoter activation profiles. The marRAB and sodA promoters could both be saturated by MarA and SoxS in vivo. However, saturation by MarA resulted in greater marRAB and lesser sodA transcription than did saturation by SoxS implying that the two activators interact with RNAP in different ways at the different promoters. Thus, the concentration and nature of activator determines which regulon promoters are activated and the extent of their activation.
gene regulation; AraC protein family; stress response
Paralogous transcriptional regulators MarA, Rob, and SoxS act individually and together to control expression of more than 80 Escherichia coli genes. Deletion of marA, rob, and soxS from an E. coli clinical isolate prevents persistence beyond 2 days postinfection in a mouse model of pyelonephritis. We used microarray analysis to identify 242 genes differentially expressed between the triple deletion mutant and its parent strain at 2 days postinfection in the kidney. One of these, znuC of the zinc transport system ZnuACB, displayed decreased expression in the triple mutant compared to that in the parental strain, and deletion of znuC from the parental strain reduced persistence. The marA rob soxS triple deletion mutant was less viable in vitro under limited-Zn and Zn-depleted conditions, while disruption of znuC caused a reduction in the growth rates for the parental and triple mutant strains to equally low levels under limited-Zn or Zn-depleted conditions. Complementation of the triple mutant with soxS, but not marA or rob, restored the parental growth rate in Zn-depleted medium, while deletion of only soxS from the parental strain led to low growth in Zn-depleted medium. Both results suggested that SoxS is a major regulator responsible for growth under Zn-depleted conditions. Gel shift experiments failed to show direct binding of SoxS to the znuCB promoter, thus suggesting indirect control of znuCB expression by SoxS. While SoxS expression in the triple mutant fully restored persistence, increased expression of znuACB via a plasmid in this mutant only partially restored wild-type levels of persistence in the kidney. This work implicates SoxS control of znuCB expression as a key factor in persistence of E. coli in murine pyelonephritis.
Resistance to multiple antibiotics and certain oxidative stress compounds was conferred by three independently selected mutations (marR1, soxQ1, and cfxB1) that mapped to 34 min on the Escherichia coli chromosome. Mutations at this locus can activate the marRAB operon, in which marR encodes a putative repressor of mar transcription and marA encodes a putative transcriptional activator of defense genes against antibiotics and oxidants. Overexpression of the wild-type MarR protein reversed the phenotypes (antibiotic resistance and increased antioxidant enzyme synthesis) of all three mutants. DNA sequence analysis showed that, like marR1, the other two mutations were alterations of marR: a 285-bp deletion in cfxB1 and a GC-->AT transition at codon 70 (Ala-->Thr) in soxQ1. All three mutations cause increased amounts of mar-specific RNA, which supports the hypothesis that MarR has a repressor function in the expression of the marRAB operon. The level of mar RNA was further induced by tetracycline in both the marR1 and soxQ1 strains but not in the cfxB1 deletion mutant. In the cfxB1 strain, the level of expression of a truncated RNA, with or without tetracycline exposure, was the same as the fully induced level in the other two mutants. Overproduction of MarR in the cfxB1 strain repressed the transcription of the truncated RNA and restored transcriptional inducibility by tetracycline. Thus, induction of the marRAB operon results from the relief of the repression exerted by MarR. The marRAB operon evidently activates both antibiotic resistance and oxidative stress genes.
Rob is a member of the Sox/Mar subfamily of AraC/XylS-type transcriptional regulators implicated in bacterial multidrug, heavy metal, superoxide, and organic solvent resistance phenotypes. We demonstrate that, in Salmonella enterica, Rob overexpression upregulates the transcription of mgtA, which codes for the MgtA Mg2+ transporter. mgtA was previously characterized as a member of the Mg2+-modulated PhoPQ regulon. Here we demonstrate that Rob (but not its paralog protein SoxS or MarA) is able to induce mgtA transcription in a PhoP-independent fashion by binding to a conserved Mar/Sox/Rob motif localized downstream of the PhoP-box and overlapping the PhoP-dependent transcriptional start site. We found that Rob-induced mgtA expression confers low-level cyclohexane resistance on Salmonella. Because mgtA intactness is required for Rob-induced cyclohexane resistance, provided the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump can be expressed, we postulate that MgtA is involved in the AcrAB-mediated cyclohexane detoxification mechanism promoted by Rob in Salmonella.
The roles of the marRAB (multiple antibiotic resistance) operon and soxRS (superoxide response) genes in the regulation of inaA, an unlinked weak-acid-inducible gene, were studied. inaA expression was estimated from the beta-galactosidase activity of a chromosomal inaA1::lacZ transcriptional fusion. marR mutations that elevate marRAB transcription and engender multiple antibiotic resistance elevated inaA expression by 10- to 20-fold over that of the wild-type. Similarly, one class of inaA constitutive mutants that mapped to the mar region were multiply antibiotic resistant. Overexpression of marA alone on a multicopy plasmid caused high constitutive expression of inaA in a strain with an extensive (39-kbp) marRAB deletion. Salicylate, an inducer of marRAB and of an unidentified mar-independent antibiotic resistance system, induced inaA by 6-fold. A portion of this induction was also mar independent. Two soxRS constitutive mutants that were tested showed elevated levels of inaA. Paraquat, an inducer of the soxRS system, elevated inaA expression by 6- to 9-fold. This induction was soxRS dependent and not mar dependent, whereas induction of inaA by salicylate was not dependent on soxRS. Paraquat induced resistance to norfloxacin in the mar-deleted strain but not in a soxRS-deleted strain. Thus, induction of multiple antibiotic resistance and inaA by salicylate occurs via mar and an unidentified pathway, while induction by paraquat occurs via soxRS.
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
The Escherichia coli tolC encodes a major outer membrane protein with multiple functions in export (e. g., diverse xenobiotics, hemolysin) and as an attachment site for phage and colicins. tolC is regulated in part by MarA, SoxS and Rob, three paralogous transcriptional activators which bind a sequence called the marbox and which activate multiple antibiotic and superoxide resistance functions. Two previously identified tolC promoters, p1 and p2, are not regulated by MarA, SoxS or Rob but p2 is activated by EvgAS and PhoPQ which also regulate other functions. Using transcriptional fusions and primer extension assays, we show here that tolC has two additional strong overlapping promoters, p3 and p4, which are downstream of p1, p2 and the marbox and are activated by MarA, SoxS and Rob. p3 and p4 are configured so that a single marbox suffices to activate transcription from both promoters. At the p3 promoter, the marbox is separated by 20 bp from the −10 hexamer for RNA polymerase but at the p4 promoter, the same marbox is separated by 30 bp from the −10 hexamer. The multiple tolC promoters may allow the cell to respond to diverse environments by coordinating tolC transcription with other appropriate functions.
gene regulation; outer membrane protein; transcriptional start sites; efflux pumps; antibiotic resistance
We previously reported that overexpression of the soxS or robA gene causes in several Escherichia coli strains the acquisition of higher organic solvent tolerance and also increased resistance to a number of antibiotics (H. Nakajima, K. Kobayashi, M. Kobayashi, H. Asako, and R. Aono, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 61:2302-2307, 1995). Most E. coli strains cannot grow in the presence of cyclohexane. We isolated the marRAB genes from a Kohara lambda phage clone and cyclohexane-tolerant mutant strain OST3408. We found a substitution of serine for arginine at position 73 in the coding region of marR of OST3408 and designated the gene marR08. Our genetic analysis revealed that marR08 is responsible for the cyclohexane-tolerant phenotype. We observed that the marA gene on high-copy-number plasmids increased the organic solvent tolerance of E. coli strains. Furthermore, exposure of E. coli cells to salicylate, which activates the mar regulon genes, also raised organic solvent tolerance. Overexpression of the marA, soxS, or robA gene increased resistance to numerous antibiotics but not to hydrophilic aminoglycosides.
The AraC family transcription factor MarA activates ∼40 genes (the marA/soxS/rob regulon) of the Escherichia coli chromosome resulting in different levels of resistance to a wide array of antibiotics and to superoxides. Activation of marA/soxS/rob regulon promoters occurs in a well-defined order with respect to the level of MarA; however, the order of activation does not parallel the strength of MarA binding to promoter sequences. To understand this lack of correspondence, we developed a computational model of transcriptional activation in which a transcription factor either increases or decreases RNA polymerase binding, and either accelerates or retards post-binding events associated with transcription initiation. We used the model to analyze data characterizing MarA regulation of promoter activity. The model clearly explains the lack of correspondence between the order of activation and the MarA-DNA affinity and indicates that the order of activation can only be predicted using information about the strength of the full MarA-polymerase-DNA interaction. The analysis further suggests that MarA can activate without increasing polymerase binding and that activation can even involve a decrease in polymerase binding, which is opposite to the textbook model of activation by recruitment. These findings are consistent with published chromatin immunoprecipitation assays of interactions between polymerase and the E. coli chromosome. We find that activation involving decreased polymerase binding yields lower latency in gene regulation and therefore might confer a competitive advantage to cells. Our model yields insights into requirements for predicting the order of activation of a regulon and enables us to suggest that activation might involve a decrease in polymerase binding which we expect to be an important theme of gene regulation in E. coli and beyond.
When environmental conditions change, cell survival can depend on sudden production of proteins that are normally in low demand. Protein production is controlled by transcription factors which bind to DNA near genes and either increase or decrease RNA production. Many puzzles remain concerning the ways transcription factors do this. Recently we collected data relating the intracellular level of a single transcription factor, MarA, to the increase in expression of several genes related to antibiotic and superoxide resistance in Escherichia coli. These data indicated that target genes are turned on in a well-defined order with respect to the level of MarA, enabling cells to mount a response that is commensurate to the level of threat detected in the environment. Here we develop a computational model to yield insight into how MarA turns on its target genes. The modeling suggests that MarA can increase the frequency with which a transcript is made while decreasing the overall presence of the transcription machinery at the start of a gene. This mechanism is opposite to the textbook model of transcriptional activation; nevertheless it enables cells to respond quickly to environmental challenges and is likely of general importance for gene regulation in E. coli and beyond.
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.
Multiple factors control the expression of the outer membrane porins OmpF and OmpC in Escherichia coli. In this work, we investigated the role of the mar-sox-rob regulon in regulating outer membrane porin expression in response to salicylate. We provide both genetic and physiological evidence that MarA and Rob can independently activate micF transcription in response to salicylate, leading to reduced OmpF expression. MarA was also found to repress OmpF expression through a MicF-independent pathway. In the case of OmpC, we found that its transcription was moderately increased in response to salicylate. However, this increase was independent of MarA and Rob. Finally, we found that the reduction in OmpF expression in a tolC mutant is due primarily to Rob. Collectively, this work further clarifies the coordinated role of MarA and Rob in regulating the expression of the outer membrane porins.
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
Tigecycline is one of the few therapeutic options for treating infections caused by some multi-drug resistant pathogens, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae. However, tigecycline-resistant K. pneumoniae has been discovered recently in China. From 2009 to 2013, nine tigecycline-resistant K. pneumoniae isolates were identified in our hospital. Six of nine strains were identified before using tigecycline. To investigate the efflux-mediated resistance mechanisms of K. pneumoniae, the expression of efflux pump genes (acrA, acrB, tolC, oqxA and oqxB) and pump regulators (acrR, marA, soxS, rarA, rob and ramA) were examined by real-time RT-PCR. Molecular typing of the tigecycline resistant strains was performed. ST11 was the predominant clone of K. pneumoniae strains, while ST1414 and ST1415 were novel STs. Efflux pump inhibitor (EPI)-carbonyl cyanide chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) was able to reverse the resistance patterns of 5 resistant K. pneumoniae strains. In comparison with strain A111, a tigecycline-susceptible strain (negative control), we found that the expression levels of efflux pump genes and pump regulators were higher in a majority of resistant strains. Higher expression levels of regulators rarA (2.41-fold, 9.55-fold, 28.44-fold and 18.31-fold, respectively) and pump gene oqxB (3.87-fold, 31.96-fold, 50.61-fold and 29.45-fold, respectively) were observed in four tigecycline resistant strains (A363, A361, A368, A373, respectively). Increased expression of acrB was associated with ramA and marA expression. To our knowledge, studies on tigecycline resistance mechanism in K. pneumoniae are limited especially in China. In our study, we found that both efflux pump AcrAB-TolC and OqxAB contributed to tigecycline resistance in K. pneumoniae isolates.
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.