Combined Effect of the Cfr Methyltransferase and Ribosomal Protein L3 Mutations on Resistance to Ribosome-Targeting Antibiotics

Kevin K Pakula, Lykke H Hansen, Birte Vester

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Several groups of antibiotics inhibit bacterial growth by binding to bacterial ribosomes. Mutations in ribosomal protein L3 have been associated with resistance to linezolid and tiamulin, which both bind at the peptidyl transferase center in the ribosome. Resistance to these and other antibiotics also occurs through methylation of 23S rRNA at position A2503 by the methyltransferase Cfr. The mutations in L3 and the cfr gene have been found together in clinical isolates, raising the question of whether they have a combined effect on antibiotic resistance or growth. We transformed a plasmid-borne cfr gene into a uL3-depleted Escherichia coli strain containing either wild-type L3 or L3 with one of seven mutations, G147R, Q148F, N149S, N149D, N149R, Q150L, or T151P, expressed from plasmid-carried rplC genes. The L3 mutations are well tolerated, with small to moderate growth rate decreases. The presence of Cfr has a very minor influence on the growth rate. The resistance of the transformants to linezolid, tiamulin, florfenicol, and Synercid (a combination of quinupristin and dalfopristin [Q-D]) was measured by MIC assays. The resistance from Cfr was, in all cases, stronger than the effects of the L3 mutations, but various effects were obtained with the combinations of Cfr and L3 mutations ranging from a synergistic to an antagonistic effect. Linezolid and tiamulin susceptibility varied greatly among the L3 mutations, while no significant effects on florfenicol and Q-D susceptibility were seen. This study underscores the complex interplay between various resistance mechanisms and cross-resistance, even from antibiotics with overlapping binding sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00862-17
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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