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.
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
Nosocomial isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae resistant to all commonly used antimicrobial agents have emerged in many regions of the world. It is unknown if efflux systems contribute to the multidrug resistance phenotype.
The expression of genes encoding the efflux pump AcrAB and the global regulators MarA, SoxS and RamA were examined and correlated with antimicrobial resistance.
Twenty isolates belonged to the two important clones representing KPC-possessing strains endemic to our region. Virtually all of these isolates had negligible or absent expression of the genes, and resistance to fluoroquinolones and aminoglycosides could be explained by alternative mechanisms. All of these isolates were susceptible to tigecycline. A group of 14 heterogeneous isolates was also examined. There was a correlation between expression of marA with expression of soxS. Only expression of soxS was significantly correlated with expression of acrB. With a background substitution in GyrA, increased expression of acrB and marA appeared to contribute to fluoroquinolone resistance in some isolates. A correlation was noted between expression of soxS and ramA (but not marA and acrB) and tigecycline MICs. Following in vitro exposure to tigecycline, resistance occurred in association with a marked increase in marA and acrB expression in isolates lacking expression of soxS and ramA.
While laboratory-derived tigecycline resistance was associated with increased acrB expression, the variation in tigecycline MICs in clinical isolates was associated only with selected regulator genes. It appears that other mechanisms beyond activation of the acrAB system mediate tigecycline resistance.
efflux; tigecycline; multidrug-resistant
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
OmpW is a minor porin whose biological function has not been clearly defined. Evidence obtained in our laboratory indicates that in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium the expression of OmpW is activated by SoxS upon exposure to paraquat and it is required for resistance. SoxS belongs to the AraC family of transcriptional regulators, like MarA and Rob. Due to their high structural similarity, the genes under their control have been grouped in the mar/sox/rob regulon, which presents a DNA-binding consensus sequence denominated the marsox box. In this work, we evaluated the role of the transcription factors MarA, SoxS and Rob of S. enterica serovar Typhimurium in regulating ompW expression in response to menadione. We determined the transcript and protein levels of OmpW in different genetic backgrounds; in the wild-type and Δrob strains ompW was upregulated in response to menadione, while in the ΔmarA and ΔsoxS strains the induction was abolished. In a double marA soxS mutant, ompW transcript levels were lowered after exposure to menadione, and only complementation in trans with both genes restored the positive regulation. Using transcriptional fusions and electrophoretic mobility shift assays with mutant versions of the promoter region we demonstrated that two of the predicted sites were functional. Additionally, we demonstrated that MarA increases the affinity of SoxS for the ompW promoter region. In conclusion, our study shows that ompW is upregulated in response to menadione in a cooperative manner by MarA and SoxS through a direct interaction with the promoter region.
The transcriptional activator RamA is involved in multidrug resistance (MDR) by increasing expression of the AcrAB-TolC RND-type efflux system in several pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae. In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium), ramA expression is negatively regulated at the local level by RamR, a transcriptional repressor of the TetR family. We here studied the DNA-binding activity of the RamR repressor with the ramA promoter (PramA). As determined by high-resolution footprinting, the 28-bp-long RamR binding site covers essential features of PramA, including the −10 conserved region, the transcriptional start site of ramA, and two 7-bp inverted repeats. Based on the RamR footprint and on electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs), we propose that RamR interacts with PramA as a dimer of dimers, in a fashion that is structurally similar to the QacR-DNA binding model. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) measurements indicated that RamR has a 3-fold-lower affinity (KD [equilibrium dissociation constant] = 191 nM) for the 2-bp-deleted PramA of an MDR S. Typhimurium clinical isolate than for the wild-type PramA (KD = 66 nM). These results confirm the direct regulatory role of RamR in the repression of ramA transcription and precisely define how an alteration of its binding site can give rise to an MDR phenotype.
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.
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.
Tigecycline is an expanded broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is active against many clinically relevant species of bacterial pathogens, including Klebsiella pneumoniae. The majority of K. pneumoniae isolates are fully susceptible to tigecycline; however, a few strains that have decreased susceptibility have been isolated. One isolate, G340 (for which the tigecycline MIC is 4 μg/ml and which displays a multidrug resistance [MDR] phenotype), was selected for analysis of the mechanism for this decreased susceptibility by use of transposon mutagenesis with IS903φkan. A tigecycline-susceptible mutant of G340, GC7535, was obtained (tigecycline MIC, 0.25 μg/ml). Analysis of the transposon insertion mapped it to ramA, a gene that was previously identified to be involved in MDR in K. pneumoniae. For GC7535, the disruption of ramA led to a 16-fold decrease in the MIC of tigecycline and also a suppression of MDR. Trans-complementation with plasmid-borne ramA restored the original parental phenotype of decreased susceptibility to tigecycline. Northern blot analysis revealed a constitutive overexpression of ramA that correlated with an increased expression of the AcrAB transporter in G340 compared to that in tigecycline-susceptible strains. Laboratory mutants of K. pneumoniae with decreased susceptibility to tigecycline could be selected at a frequency of approximately 4 × 10−8. These results suggest that ramA is associated with decreased tigecycline susceptibility in K. pneumoniae due to its role in the expression of the AcrAB multidrug efflux pump.
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.
MarA and its homologue, RamA, have been implicated in multidrug resistance (MDR). RamA overexpression in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli conferred MDR independently of marA. Inactivation of ramA did not affect the antibiotic susceptibilities of wild-type S. enterica serovar Typhimurium or 15 unrelated clinical MDR isolates. Thus, ramA overexpression is not a common MDR mechanism in Salmonella.
The transcriptomes of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 lacking a functional ramA or ramR or with plasmid-mediated high-level overexpression of ramA were compared to those of the wild-type parental strain. Inactivation of ramA led to increased expression of 14 SPI-1 genes and decreased expression of three SPI-2 genes, and it altered expression of ribosomal biosynthetic genes and several amino acid biosynthetic pathways. Furthermore, disruption of ramA led to decreased survival within RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages and attenuation within the BALB/c ByJ mouse model. Highly overexpressed ramA led to increased expression of genes encoding multidrug resistance (MDR) efflux pumps, including acrAB, acrEF, and tolC. Decreased expression of 34 Salmonella pathogenicity island (SPI) 1 and 2 genes, decreased SipC production, decreased adhesion to and survival within macrophages, and decreased colonization of Caenorhabditis elegans were also seen. Disruption of ramR led to the increased expression of ramA, acrAB, and tolC, but not to the same level as when ramA was overexpressed on a plasmid. Inactivation of ramR had a more limited effect on pathogenicity gene expression. In silico analysis of a suggested RamA-binding consensus sequence identified target genes, including ramR, acrA, tolC, sipABC, and ssrA. This study demonstrates that the regulation of a mechanism of MDR and expression of virulence genes show considerable overlap, and we postulate that such a mechanism is dependent on transcriptional activator concentration and promoter sensitivity. However, we have no evidence to support the hypothesis that increased MDR via RamA regulation of AcrAB-TolC gives rise to a hypervirulent strain.
RamA is a transcription factor involved in regulating multidrug resistance in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter fusions were exploited to investigate the regulation of RamA expression by RamR. We show that RamR represses the ramA promoter by binding to a palindromic sequence and describe a superrepressor RamR mutant that binds to the ramA promoter sequence more efficiently, thus exhibiting a ramA inactivated phenotype.
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.