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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1992 Sep 15;75(2-3):207-11.

Metal ion-catalysed hydrolysis of ampicillin in microbiological growth media.

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Division of Biosphere Sciences, King's College London, UK.


Anodic stripping voltammetry of bacterial growth medium containing copper(II) and ampicillin shows that Cu(II) is complexed by the antibiotic and that this complex decomposes to give Cu(II) complexes with ligands derived from ampicillin. At pH 7, substantial decomposition of ampicillin occurs over a few minutes, and even the very low levels of Cu(II) in Chelex-extracted medium are able effectively to catalyse the decomposition. The significance of this observation was shown during the screening of an Escherichia coli cosmid library for clones exhibiting increased resistance to Zn(II), Co(II) or Cd(II); the unexpected growth of the ampicillin-sensitive host E. coli strain on Luria-Bertani plates containing ampicillin and any of these metals was attributed to metal ion-catalysed decomposition of ampicillin. The instability of ampicillin (and other beta-lactam antibiotics) to metal ion-catalysed hydrolysis means that great care must be taken to ensure that such reactions do not occur in growth media. Furthermore, it is clear that double selection for resistance to ampicillin and metals such as Cu(II), Zn(II), Co(II) and Cd(II) is impossible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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