Faculty of Social Sciences

Mechanisms and Dynamics of Mecillinam Resistance in Escherichia coli

  • Date: 11/24/2017 at 9:00 AM
  • Location: A1:111a, BMC, Husargatan 3, Uppsala
  • Lecturer: Thulin, Elisabeth
  • Website
  • Organizer: Institutionen för medicinsk biokemi och mikrobiologi
  • Contact person: Thulin, Elisabeth
  • Disputation

In this thesis mechanisms and dynamics of mecillinam resistance in clinical and laboratory isolates of Escherichia coli was examined.

The introduction of antibiotics in healthcare is one of the most important medical achievements with regard to reducing human morbidity and mortality. However, bacterial pathogens have acquired antibiotic resistance at an increasing rate, and due to a high prevalence of resistance to some antibiotics they can no longer be used therapeutically. The antibiotic mecillinam, which inhibits the penicillin-binding protein PBP2, however, is an exception since mecillinam resistance (MecR) prevalence has remained low. This is particularly interesting since laboratory experiments have shown that bacteria can rapidly acquire MecR mutations by a multitude of different types of mutations.

In this thesis, I examined mechanisms and dynamics of mecillinam resistance in clinical and laboratory isolates of Escherichia coli. Only one type of MecR mutations (cysB) was found in the clinical strains, even though laboratory experiments demonstrate that more than 100 genes can confer resistance Fitness assays showed that cysB mutants have higher fitness than most other MecR mutants, which is likely to contribute to their dominance in clinical settings.

To determine if the mecillinam resistant strains could compensate for their fitness cost, six different MecR mutants (cysB, mrdA, spoT, ppa, aspS and ubiE) were evolved for 200-400 generations. All evolved mutants showed increased fitness, but the compensation was associated with loss of resistance in the majority of cases. This will also contribute to the rarity of clinical MecR isolates with chromosomal resistance mutations.

How MecR is mediated by cysB mutations was previously unclear, but in this thesis I propose and test a model for the mechanism of resistance. Thus, inactivation of CysB results in cellular depletion of cysteine that triggers an oxidative stress response. The response alters the intracellular levels of 450 proteins, and MecR is achieved by the increase of two of these, the LpoB and PBP1B proteins, which rescue the cells with a mecillinam-inhibited PBP2.

Mecillinam is used for UTI treatments and to investigate mecillinam resistance in a more host-like milieu, MecR strains were grown in urine and resistance was examined. Interestingly, this study showed that neither laboratory, nor clinical cysB mutants are resistant in urine, most likely because the cysteine present in the urine phenotypically reverts the bacteria to susceptibility. These findings suggest that mecillinam can be used to treat also those clinical strains that are identified as MecR in standard laboratory tests, and that testing of mecillinam susceptibility in the laboratory ought to be performed in media that mimics urine to obtain clinically relevant results.

In summary, the work described in this thesis has increased ourgeneral knowledge of mecillinam resistance and its evolution. Hopefully this knowledge can be put to good use in clinical settings to reduce the negative impact of antibiotic resistance.