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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1063:222-30.

Genome comparison analysis of molecular mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics in the Rickettsia genus.

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Unité des Rickettsies, IFR 48, CNRS UMR 6020, Université de la Méditerranée, Faculté de medicine, 13385 Marseille cedex 5, France.


In this study we describe molecular mechanisms of resistance to several classes of antibiotics within drug targets by in silico genome comparisons for bacteria of the genus Rickettsia. Apart from the mutations in the rpoB gene in naturally rifampin-resistant Rickettsia species previously reported by our team, we found that typhus group (TG) rickettsiae had a triple amino acid difference in the highly conserved region of the L22 ribosomal protein as compared to the spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFG), which could explain the natural resistance of SFG rickettsia to erythromycin. We found also that the genome of R. conorii contains an aminoglycoside 3'-phosphotransferase. Finally, either folA gene (encoding dihydrofolate reductase) and/or folP gene (encoding dihydropteroate synthase) was missing in the genome of rickettsial strains explaining the natural resistance to cotrimoxazole. Finally, multiple genes encoding for pump efflux were found especially in the genome of R. conorii that could be involved in resistance to antibiotics. Five specific ORFs related to antibiotic resistance have been identified in the genome of R. felis including a streptomycin resistance protein homologue, a class C beta-lactamase, a class D beta-lactamase, a penicillin acylase homologue, and an ABC-type multidrug transporter system. For the first time, using this approach, an experimental beta-lactamase activity has been shown for this bacterium. We believe that whole genome sequence analysis may help to predict several phenotypic characters, in particular resistance to antibiotics for obligate intracellular bacteria.

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