OBJECTIVES: To determine the mechanism of induction of erm(47) and its atypical expression in the Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen Helcococcus kunzii, where it confers resistance to a subset of clinically important macrolide, lincosamide and streptogramin B (MLSB) antibiotics.
METHODS: The resistant H. kunzii clinical isolate UCN99 was challenged with subinhibitory concentrations of a wide range of ribosome-targeting drugs. The methylation status of the H. kunzii ribosomal RNA at the MLSB binding site was then determined using an MS approach and was correlated with any increase in resistance to the drugs.
RESULTS: The H. kunzii erm(47) gene encodes a monomethyltransferase. Expression is induced by subinhibitory concentrations of the macrolide erythromycin, as is common for many erm genes, and surprisingly also by 16-membered macrolide, lincosamide, streptogramin, ketolide, chloramphenicol and linezolid antibiotics, all of which target the 50S ribosomal subunit. No induction was detected with spectinomycin, which targets the 30S subunit.
CONCLUSIONS: The structure of the erm(47) leader sequence functions as a hair trigger for the induction mechanism that expresses resistance. Consequently, translation of the erm(47) mRNA is tripped by MLSB compounds and also by drugs that target the 50S ribosomal subunit outside the MLSB site. Expression of erm(47) thus extends previous assumptions about how erm genes can be induced.