Adaptive responses to cefotaxime treatment in ESBL-producing Escherichia coli and the possible use of significantly regulated pathways as novel secondary targets

Thea S. B. Møller, Martin Holm Rau, Charlotte S Bonde, Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, Luca Guardabassi, John E Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of the study was to determine how ESBL-producing Escherichia coli change the expression of metabolic and biosynthesis genes when adapting to inhibitory concentrations of cefotaxime. Secondly, it was investigated whether significantly regulated pathways constitute putative secondary targets that can be used to combat the resistant bacteria. Strains of E. coli MG1655 encoding blaCTX-M-1 from an IncI1 plasmid and from the chromosome were challenged with cefotaxime corresponding to inhibitory concentrations, and transcriptional patterns were compared with growth without or with very low concentrations of cefotaxime by RNA sequencing. Significantly regulated pathways were inhibited with suitable inhibitors, or genes encoding the enzymes of the regulated pathways were knocked out. The ability of the bacteria to grow in the presence of cefotaxime was determined. Chequerboard assays were utilized to confirm synergies between treatments. Genes belonging to 16 different functional gene classes were significantly regulated. Protein and peptidoglycan syntheses were up-regulated and low concentrations of chloramphenicol or d-cycloserine, targeting these systems, strongly reduced the MIC of cefotaxime (>32-fold). Inhibition and/or mutations in other genes that were significantly regulated, belonging to energy synthesis, purine synthesis, proline uptake or potassium uptake, also rendered the resistant bacteria more susceptible to cefotaxime. The results show that ESBL-producing E. coli adapt to treatment with cefotaxime by changing their gene expression patterns and furthermore that targeting regulated adaptive pathways may be a suitable way to identify targets for drugs that will specifically inhibit the resistant bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2449-2459
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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