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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2002 Jun;49(6):925-34.

Response of Escherichia coli hypermutators to selection pressure with antimicrobial agents from different classes.

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Antimicrobial Research Centre and Division of Microbiology, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


The responses of hypermutable Escherichia coli strains to selection with antibiotics having different endogenous resistance potentials were determined. Selections with rifampicin or ciprofloxacin at 4 x MIC, i.e. conditions where they act as single target agents against RpoB and GyrA, respectively, demonstrated that some hypermutators generated resistant mutants with frequencies up to 1000-fold higher than normal strains. Furthermore, individual mutants recovered from hypermutable hosts often exhibited higher levels of resistance to the drugs than mutants arising in normal hosts. Exposure to ciprofloxacin at 16 x MIC, i.e. conditions where it has low endogenous resistance potential, failed to select resistant mutants in hypermutable or normal hosts (mutation frequency <10(-11)). Consistent with these findings, the highest estimated mutation frequency for selection at 16 x MIC in a hypermutable host would be 4.4 x 10(-15) (mutT), calculated by determining the individual mutation frequencies for first-step ciprofloxacin resistance and second-step resistance arising in hosts already harbouring single first-step mutations in gyrA at codons 83 or 87. The frequency with which second-step ciprofloxacin resistance mutations arose was suppressed in hypermutators and demonstrated at most a 10-fold increase in mutation rate compared with non-hypermutator hosts. Second-step mutants may contain mutations in mar, since a survey of 170 second-step ciprofloxacin-resistant mutants derived from both hypermutator and non-hypermutator parents demonstrated that they all possessed increased resistance to chloramphenicol, a phenotype associated with mar mutations. Exposure to 4 x MIC of D-cycloserine, cefotaxime or polymyxin B (agents with multiple targets or membrane activity) failed to select resistant mutants in normal or hypermutator hosts (mutation frequency <10(-11)); however, continuous culture in the presence of sub-lethal concentrations of D-cycloserine (0.25 x MIC) selected resistant mutants in hypermutators after c. 33 generations, compared with c. 44 generations in normal hosts. Since hypermutable bacteria occur naturally, our data emphasize that successful new drugs will need to possess low endogenous resistance potentials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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