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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26520. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026520. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Evidence of MexT-independent overexpression of MexEF-OprN multidrug efflux pump of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in presence of metabolic stress.

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  • 1Antimicrobial Resistance Research Group, Applied Bioscience Program, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.



The Pseudomonas aeruginosa MexEF-OprN efflux pump confers resistance to clinically significant antibiotics. Regulation of mexEF-oprN operon expression is multifaceted with the MexT activator being one of the most prominent regulatory proteins.


We have exploited the impaired metabolic fitness of a P. aeruginosa mutant strain lacking several efflux pump of the resistance nodulation cell division superfamily and the TolC homolog OpmH, and isolated derivatives (large colony variants) that regained fitness by incubation on nutrient-rich medium in the absence of antibiotics. Although the mexEF-oprN operon is uninducible in this mutant due to a 8-bp mexT insertion present in some P. aeruginosa PAO1 strains, the large colony variants expressed high levels of MexEF-OprN. Unlike large colony variants obtained after plating on antibiotic containing medium which expressed mexEF-oprN in a MexT-dependent fashion as evidenced by clean excision of the 8-bp insertion from mexT, mexEF-oprN expression was MexT-independent in the large colony variants obtained by plating on LB alone since the mexT gene remained inactivated. A search for possible regulators of mexEF-oprN expression using transposon mutagenesis and genomic library expression approaches yielded several candidates but proved inconclusive.


Our results show that antibiotic and metabolic stress lead to up-regulation of MexEF-OprN expression via different mechanisms and that MexEF-OprN does not only extrude antimicrobials but rather serves other important metabolic functions.

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