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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 5;279(10):8761-8. Epub 2003 Dec 15.

CzcR-CzcS, a two-component system involved in heavy metal and carbapenem resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Laboratory of Bacteriology and Microbial Ecology, Department of Botany and Plant Biology Sciences III, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental bacterium involved in mineralization of organic matter. It is also an opportunistic pathogen able to cause serious infections in immunocompromised hosts. As such, it is exposed to xenobiotics including solvents, heavy metals, and antimicrobials. We studied the response of P. aeruginosa upon exposure to heavy metals or antibiotics to investigate whether common regulatory mechanisms govern resistance to both types of compounds. We showed that sublethal zinc concentrations induced resistance to zinc, cadmium, and cobalt, while lethal zinc concentrations selected mutants constitutively resistant to these heavy metals. Both zinc-induced and stable zinc-resistant strains were also resistant to the carbapenem antibiotic imipenem. On the other hand, only 20% of clones selected on imipenem were also resistant to zinc. Heavy metal resistance in the mutants could be correlated by quantitative real time PCR with increased expression of the heavy metal efflux pump CzcCBA and its cognate two-component regulator genes czcR-czcS. Western blot analysis revealed reduced expression of the basic amino acid and carbapenem-specific OprD porin in all imipenem-resistant mutants. Sequencing of the czcR-czcS DNA region in eight independent zinc- and imipenem-resistant mutants revealed the presence of the same V194L mutation in the CzcS sensor protein. Overexpression in a susceptible wild type strain of the mutated CzsS protein, but not of the wild type form, resulted in decreased oprD and increased czcC expression. We further show that zinc is released from latex urinary catheters into urine in amounts sufficient to induce carbapenem resistance in P. aeruginosa, possibly compromising treatment of urinary tract infections by this class of antibiotics.

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