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1.  The Asp20-to-Asn Substitution in the Response Regulator AdeR Leads to Enhanced Efflux Activity of AdeB in Acinetobacter baumannii 
Overexpression of the resistance-nodulation-cell division-type efflux pump AdeABC is often associated with multidrug resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii and has been linked to mutations in the genes encoding the AdeRS two-component system. In a previous study, we reported that the Asp20→Asn amino acid substitution in the response regulator AdeR is associated with adeB overexpression and reduced susceptibility to the antimicrobials levofloxacin, tigecycline, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. To further characterize the effect of the Asp20→Asn substitution on antimicrobial susceptibility, the expression of the efflux genes adeB, adeJ, and adeG, and substrate accumulation, four plasmid constructs [containing adeR(Asp20)S, adeR(Asn20)S, adeR(Asp20)SABC, and adeR(Asn20)SABC] were introduced into the adeRSABC-deficient A. baumannii isolate NIPH 60. Neither adeRS construct induced changes in antimicrobial susceptibility or substrate accumulation from that for the vector-only control. The adeR(Asp20)SABC transformant showed reduced susceptibility to 6 antimicrobials and accumulated 12% less ethidium than the control, whereas the Asn20 variant showed reduced susceptibility to 6 of 8 antimicrobial classes tested, and its ethidium accumulation was only 72% of that observed for the vector-only construct. adeB expression was 7-fold higher in the adeR(Asn20)SABC transformant than in its Asp20 variant. No changes in adeG or adeJ expression or in acriflavine or rhodamine 6G accumulation were detected. The antimicrobial susceptibility data suggest that AdeRS does not regulate any resistance determinants other than AdeABC. Furthermore, the characterization of the Asp20→Asn20 substitution proves that the reduced antimicrobial susceptibility previously associated with this substitution was indeed caused by enhanced efflux activity of AdeB.
PMCID: PMC4750716  PMID: 26643347
3.  Mechanisms of reduced susceptibility and genotypic prediction of antibiotic resistance in Prevotella isolated from cystic fibrosis (CF) and non-CF patients 
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy  2014;69(10):2690-2698.
To investigate mechanisms of reduced susceptibility to commonly used antibiotics in Prevotella cultured from patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), patients with invasive infection and healthy control subjects and to determine whether genotype can be used to predict phenotypic resistance.
The susceptibility of 157 Prevotella isolates to seven antibiotics was compared, with detection of resistance genes (cfxA-type gene, ermF and tetQ), mutations within the CfxA-type β-lactamase and expression of efflux pumps.
Prevotella isolates positive for a cfxA-type gene had higher MICs of amoxicillin and ceftazidime compared with isolates negative for this gene (P < 0.001). A mutation within the CfxA-type β-lactamase (Y239D) was associated with ceftazidime resistance (P = 0.011). The UK CF isolates were 5.3-fold, 2.7-fold and 5.7-fold more likely to harbour ermF compared with the US CF, UK invasive and UK healthy control isolates, respectively. Higher concentrations of azithromycin (P < 0.001) and clindamycin (P < 0.001) were also required to inhibit the growth of the ermF-positive isolates compared with ermF-negative isolates. Furthermore, tetQ-positive Prevotella isolates had higher MICs of tetracycline (P = 0.001) and doxycycline (P < 0.001) compared with tetQ-negative isolates. Prevotella spp. were also shown, for the first time, to express resistance nodulation division (RND)-type efflux pumps.
This study has demonstrated that Prevotella isolated from various sources harbour a common pool of resistance genes and possess RND-type efflux pumps, which may contribute to tetracycline resistance. The findings indicate that antibiotic resistance is common in Prevotella spp., but the genotypic traits investigated do not reflect phenotypic antibiotic resistance in every instance.
PMCID: PMC4164140  PMID: 24917582
resistance genes; β-lactamases; efflux pumps
4.  Elucidation of the RamA Regulon in Klebsiella pneumoniae Reveals a Role in LPS Regulation 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(1):e1004627.
Klebsiella pneumoniae is a significant human pathogen, in part due to high rates of multidrug resistance. RamA is an intrinsic regulator in K. pneumoniae established to be important for the bacterial response to antimicrobial challenge; however, little is known about its possible wider regulatory role in this organism during infection. In this work, we demonstrate that RamA is a global transcriptional regulator that significantly perturbs the transcriptional landscape of K. pneumoniae, resulting in altered microbe-drug or microbe-host response. This is largely due to the direct regulation of 68 genes associated with a myriad of cellular functions. Importantly, RamA directly binds and activates the lpxC, lpxL-2 and lpxO genes associated with lipid A biosynthesis, thus resulting in modifications within the lipid A moiety of the lipopolysaccharide. RamA-mediated alterations decrease susceptibility to colistin E, polymyxin B and human cationic antimicrobial peptide LL-37. Increased RamA levels reduce K. pneumoniae adhesion and uptake into macrophages, which is supported by in vivo infection studies, that demonstrate increased systemic dissemination of ramA overexpressing K. pneumoniae. These data establish that RamA-mediated regulation directly perturbs microbial surface properties, including lipid A biosynthesis, which facilitate evasion from the innate host response. This highlights RamA as a global regulator that confers pathoadaptive phenotypes with implications for our understanding of the pathogenesis of Enterobacter, Salmonella and Citrobacter spp. that express orthologous RamA proteins.
Author Summary
Bacteria can rapidly evolve under antibiotic pressure to develop resistance, which occurs when target genes mutate, or when resistance-encoding genes are transferred. Alternatively, microbes can simply alter the levels of intrinsic proteins that allow the organism to “buy” time to resist antibiotic pressure. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a pathogen that causes significant blood stream or respiratory infections, but more importantly is a bacterium that is increasingly being reported as multidrug resistant. Our data demonstrate that RamA can trigger changes on the bacterial surface that allow Klebsiella to survive both antibiotic challenge, degradation by host immune peptides and resist phagocytosis. We demonstrate that the molecular basis of increased survival of ramA overexpressing K. pneumoniae, against host-derived factors is associated with RamA-driven alterations of the lipid A moiety of Klebsiella LPS. This modification is likely to be linked to Klebsiella’s ability to resist the host response so that it remains undetected by the immune system. The relevance of our work extends beyond RamA in Klebsiella as other pathogens such as Enterobacter spp and Salmonella spp. also produce this protein. Thus our overarching conclusion is that the intrinsic regulator, RamA perturbs host-microbe and microbe-drug interactions.
PMCID: PMC4310594  PMID: 25633080
5.  Antibiotic resistance in Prevotella species isolated from patients with cystic fibrosis 
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy  2013;68(10):2369-2374.
To compare the antimicrobial susceptibility of Prevotella spp. isolated from cystic fibrosis (CF) and non-CF patients and analyse the impact of antibiotic prescribing in the preceding year on resistance amongst CF isolates.
The susceptibility of 80 CF Prevotella isolates to 12 antibiotics was compared with that of 50 Prevotella isolates from invasive infections in people who did not have CF and 27 Prevotella isolates from healthy controls.
All isolates were susceptible to chloramphenicol, meropenem and piperacillin/tazobactam, with only four isolates resistant to metronidazole. However, resistance to amoxicillin, ceftazidime and tetracycline was apparent in all groups. Significant differences in clindamycin resistance (UK CF, 56%; UK invasive, 10%) and co-amoxiclav non-susceptibility (UK CF, 32%; UK invasive, 12%) were observed between UK CF and UK invasive isolates. The likelihood of non-susceptibility to clindamycin and co-amoxiclav in UK CF isolates was 5.5-fold and 2.5-fold higher relative to that in UK invasive isolates, respectively. Azithromycin MICs were also significantly higher for CF isolates (P < 0.001), which was associated with current prescription of azithromycin. More than 50% of clinical isolates tested in this study were β-lactamase positive.
This study profiles antibiotic susceptibility in Prevotella spp. in CF and demonstrates that meropenem, piperacillin/tazobactam, chloramphenicol and metronidazole are likely to be the most effective antibiotics if treatment is indicated.
PMCID: PMC3772740  PMID: 23696621
anaerobic bacteria; antimicrobial susceptibility; β-lactamase production
6.  Fosfomycin and Tobramycin in Combination Downregulate Nitrate Reductase Genes narG and narH, Resulting in Increased Activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa under Anaerobic Conditions 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2013;57(11):5406-5414.
The activity of aminoglycosides, which are used to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa respiratory infection in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, is reduced under the anaerobic conditions that reflect the CF lung in vivo. In contrast, a 4:1 (wt/wt) combination of fosfomycin and tobramycin (F:T), which is under investigation for use in the treatment of CF lung infection, has increased activity against P. aeruginosa under anaerobic conditions. The aim of this study was to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the increased activity of F:T under anaerobic conditions. Microarray analysis was used to identify the transcriptional basis of increased F:T activity under anaerobic conditions, and key findings were confirmed by microbiological tests, including nitrate utilization assays, growth curves, and susceptibility testing. Notably, growth in subinhibitory concentrations of F:T, but not tobramycin or fosfomycin alone, significantly downregulated (P < 0.05) nitrate reductase genes narG and narH, which are essential for normal anaerobic growth of P. aeruginosa. Under anaerobic conditions, F:T significantly decreased (P < 0.001) nitrate utilization in P. aeruginosa strains PAO1, PA14, and PA14 lasR::Gm, a mutant known to exhibit increased nitrate utilization. A similar effect was observed with two clinical P. aeruginosa isolates. Growth curves indicate that nitrate reductase transposon mutants had reduced growth under anaerobic conditions, with these mutants also having increased susceptibility to F:T compared to the wild type under similar conditions. The results of this study suggest that downregulation of nitrate reductase genes resulting in reduced nitrate utilization is the mechanism underlying the increased activity of F:T under anaerobic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3811241  PMID: 23959314
7.  Elucidating the Regulon of Multidrug Resistance Regulator RarA in Klebsiella pneumoniae 
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.
PMCID: PMC3623357  PMID: 23318802
8.  Genome Sequence of Klebsiella pneumoniae Ecl8, a Reference Strain for Targeted Genetic Manipulation 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00027-12.
We report the genome sequence of Klebsiella pneumoniae subsp. pneumoniae Ecl8, a spontaneous streptomycin-resistant mutant of strain ECL4, derived from NCIB 418. K. pneumoniae Ecl8 has been shown to be genetically tractable for targeted gene deletion strategies and so provides a platform for in-depth analyses of this species.
PMCID: PMC3569361  PMID: 23405357
9.  Tigecycline challenge triggers sRNA production in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:195.
Bacteria employ complex transcriptional networks involving multiple genes in response to stress, which is not limited to gene and protein networks but now includes small RNAs (sRNAs). These regulatory RNA molecules are increasingly shown to be able to initiate regulatory cascades and modulate the expression of multiple genes that are involved in or required for survival under environmental challenge. Despite mounting evidence for the importance of sRNAs in stress response, their role upon antibiotic exposure remains unknown. In this study, we sought to determine firstly, whether differential expression of sRNAs occurs upon antibiotic exposure and secondly, whether these sRNAs could be attributed to microbial tolerance to antibiotics.
A small scale sRNA cloning strategy of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 challenged with half the minimal inhibitory concentration of tigecycline identified four sRNAs (sYJ5, sYJ20, sYJ75 and sYJ118) which were reproducibly upregulated in the presence of either tigecycline or tetracycline. The coding sequences of the four sRNAs were found to be conserved across a number of species. Genome analysis found that sYJ5 and sYJ118 mapped between the 16S and 23S rRNA encoding genes. sYJ20 (also known as SroA) is encoded upstream of the tbpAyabKyabJ operon and is classed as a riboswitch, whilst its role in antibiotic stress-response appears independent of its riboswitch function. sYJ75 is encoded between genes that are involved in enterobactin transport and metabolism. Additionally we find that the genetic deletion of sYJ20 rendered a reduced viability phenotype in the presence of tigecycline, which was recovered when complemented. The upregulation of some of these sRNAs were also observed when S. Typhimurium was challenged by ampicillin (sYJ5, 75 and 118); or when Klebsiella pneumoniae was challenged by tigecycline (sYJ20 and 118).
Small RNAs are overexpressed as a result of antibiotic exposure in S. Typhimurium where the same molecules are upregulated in a related species or after exposure to different antibiotics. sYJ20, a riboswitch, appears to possess a trans-regulatory sRNA role in antibiotic tolerance. These findings imply that the sRNA mediated response is a component of the bacterial response to antibiotic challenge.
PMCID: PMC3511261  PMID: 22958399
10.  Tigecycline Resistance Can Occur Independently of the ramA Gene in Klebsiella pneumoniae 
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.
PMCID: PMC3421586  PMID: 22644034
11.  Characterization of RarA, a Novel AraC Family Multidrug Resistance Regulator in Klebsiella pneumoniae 
Transcriptional regulators, such as SoxS, RamA, MarA, and Rob, which upregulate the AcrAB efflux pump, have been shown to be associated with multidrug resistance in clinically relevant Gram-negative bacteria. In addition to the multidrug resistance phenotype, these regulators have also been shown to play a role in the cellular metabolism and possibly the virulence potential of microbial cells. As such, the increased expression of these proteins is likely to cause pleiotropic phenotypes. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a major nosocomial pathogen which can express the SoxS, MarA, Rob, and RamA proteins, and the accompanying paper shows that the increased transcription of ramA is associated with tigecycline resistance (M. Veleba and T. Schneiders, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56:4466–4467, 2012). Bioinformatic analyses of the available Klebsiella genome sequences show that an additional AraC-type regulator is encoded chromosomally. In this work, we characterize this novel AraC-type regulator, hereby called RarA (Regulator of antibiotic resistance A), which is encoded in K. pneumoniae, Enterobacter sp. 638, Serratia proteamaculans 568, and Enterobacter cloacae. We show that the overexpression of rarA results in a multidrug resistance phenotype which requires a functional AcrAB efflux pump but is independent of the other AraC regulators. Quantitative real-time PCR experiments show that rarA (MGH 78578 KPN_02968) and its neighboring efflux pump operon oqxAB (KPN_02969_02970) are consistently upregulated in clinical isolates collected from various geographical locations (Chile, Turkey, and Germany). Our results suggest that rarA overexpression upregulates the oqxAB efflux pump. Additionally, it appears that oqxR, encoding a GntR-type regulator adjacent to the oqxAB operon, is able to downregulate the expression of the oqxAB efflux pump, where OqxR complementation resulted in reductions to olaquindox MICs.
PMCID: PMC3421627  PMID: 22644028
12.  In Vivo Selection of a Missense Mutation in adeR and Conversion of the Novel blaOXA-164 Gene into blaOXA-58 in Carbapenem-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii Isolates from a Hospitalized Patient▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(12):5021-5027.
The mechanism of stepwise acquired multidrug resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii isolates from a hospitalized patient was investigated. Thirteen consecutive multidrug-resistant isolates were recovered from the same patient over a 2-month period. The Vitek 2 system identified the isolates as meropenem-sensitive Acinetobacter lwoffii; however, molecular identification showed that the isolates were A. baumannii. Etest revealed that the isolates were meropenem resistant. The presence of oxacillinase (OXA)-type enzymes were investigated by sequencing. The clonal relatedness of isolates was assessed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Expression of the genes encoding the efflux pumps AdeB and AdeJ was performed by semiquantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). The adeRS two-component system was sequenced. All isolates had identical PFGE fingerprints, suggesting clonal identity. The first six isolates were positive for the novel blaOXA-164 gene. The following seven isolates, recovered after treatment with a combination of meropenem, amikacin, ciprofloxacin, and co-trimoxazole showed an increase of >7-fold in adeB mRNA transcripts and a missense mutation in blaOXA-164, converting it to blaOXA-58. Sequencing revealed a novel mutation in adeR. These data illustrate how A. baumannii can adapt during antimicrobial therapy, leading to increased antimicrobial resistance.
PMCID: PMC2981280  PMID: 20921306
14.  Identification of a novel prophage regulator in Escherichia coli controlling the expression of type III secretion 
Molecular Microbiology  2011;83(1):208-223.
This study has identified horizontally acquired genomic regions of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 that regulate expression of the type III secretion (T3S) system encoded by the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). Deletion of O-island 51, a 14.93 kb cryptic prophage (CP-933C), resulted in a reduction in LEE expression and T3S. The deletion also had a reduced capacity to attach to epithelial cells and significantly reduced E. coli O157 excretion levels from sheep. Further characterization of O-island 51 identified a novel positive regulator of the LEE, encoded by ecs1581 in the E. coli O157:H7 strain Sakai genome and present but not annotated in the E. coli strain EDL933 sequence. Functionally important residues of ECs1581 were identified based on phenotypic variants present in sequenced E. coli strains and the regulator was termed RgdR based on a motif demonstrated to be important for stimulation of gene expression. While RgdR activated expression from the LEE1 promoter in the presence or absence of the LEE-encoded regulator (Ler), RgdR stimulation of T3S required ler and Ler autoregulation. RgdR also controlled the expression of other phenotypes, including motility, indicating that this new family of regulators may have a more global role in E. coli gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3378721  PMID: 22111928

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