Membrane Transporters of the Major Facilitator Superfamily Are Essential for Long-Term Maintenance of Phenotypic Tolerance to Multiple Antibiotics in E. coli

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

3 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations

Author(s)

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01846-21
Journal / PublicationMicrobiology Spectrum
Volume9
Issue number3
Online published17 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Link(s)

Abstract

Antibiotic tolerance is not only the key underlying the cause of recurrent and chronic bacterial infections but it is also a factor linked to exacerbation of diseases, such as tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis-associated lung infection, and candidiasis. This phenomenon was previously attributed to a switch to physiological dormancy in a bacterial subpopulation triggered by environmental signals. However, we recently showed that expression of phenotypic antibiotic tolerance during nutrient starvation is highly dependent on robust production of proteins that actively maintain the bacterial transmembrane proton motive force (PMF), even under a nutrient-deficient environment. To investigate why PMF needs to be maintained for expression of phenotypic antibiotic tolerance, we tested the relative functional role of known transporters and efflux pumps in tolerance development by assessing the effect of deletion of specific efflux pump and transporter-encoding genes on long-term maintenance of antibiotic tolerance in an Escherichia coli population under starvation. We identified eight specific efflux pumps and transporters and two known efflux pump components, namely, ChaA, EmrK, EmrY, SsuA, NhaA, GadC, YdjK, YphD, TolC, and ChaB, that play a key role in tolerance development and maintenance. In particular, deletion of each of the nhaA and chaB genes is sufficient to totally abolish the tolerance phenotypes during prolonged antimicrobial treatment. These findings therefore depict active, efflux-mediated bacterial tolerance mechanisms and facilitate design of intervention strategies to prevent and treat chronic and recurrent infections due to persistence of antibiotic-tolerant subpopulations in the human body. IMPORTANCE We recently showed that the antibiotic-tolerant subpopulation of bacteria or persisters actively maintain the transmembrane proton motive force (PMF) to survive starvation stress for a prolonged period. This work further shows that the reason why antibiotic persisters need to maintain PMF is that PMF is required to support a range of efflux or transportation functions. Intriguingly, we found that tolerance-maintaining efflux activities were mainly encoded by 10 efflux or transporter genes. Because our study showed that deletion of even one of these genes could cause a significant reduction in tolerance level, we conclude that the products of these genes play an essential role in enhancing the survival fitness of bacteria during starvation or under other adverse environmental conditions. These gene products are therefore excellent targets for future design of antimicrobial agents that eradicate antibiotic tolerant persisters and prevent occurrence of chronic and recurrent human infections.

Research Area(s)

Citation Format(s)

Membrane Transporters of the Major Facilitator Superfamily Are Essential for Long-Term Maintenance of Phenotypic Tolerance to Multiple Antibiotics in E. coli. / Wan, Yingkun; Wang, Miaomiao; Chan, Edward Wai Chi et al.

In: Microbiology Spectrum, Vol. 9, No. 3, e01846-21, 11.2021.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

Download Statistics

No data available