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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 1993;2(4):263-70.

Effects of low, subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics on expression of a virulence gene cluster of pathogenic Escherichia coli by using a wild-type gene fusion.

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Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


S fimbrial adhesins (Sfa) represent virulence factors of E. coli wild-type strains causing urinary tract infections and meningitis of the new born. In order to determine the influence of subinhibitory concentration of antibiotics on the expression of the sfa gene cluster, a wild-type strain carrying the lacZ gene, coding for the enzyme beta-galactosidase fused to the sfa determinant was used. The expression of lacZ which was under the control of the sfa wild-type promoters, was now equivalent to the sfa gene expression of wild-type strain 536. With this strain the influence of subinhibitory concentrations of 28 antibiotics on the expression of the sfa determinant was studied. The expression was strongly suppressed by a treatment of the wild-type fusion strain by aztreonam, gentamicin, clindamycin and trimethoprim; the latter had a dramatic effect on sfa expression. It was further shown for clindamycin and trimethoprim that the reduction of sfa gene expression was dependent on the concentration of the antibiotics. In contrast imipinem, amphotericin B and rifampicin weakly stimulated sfa expression. We conclude that gene fusions between virulence-associated loci and indicator genes in wild-type pathogens are useful to study virulence modulation due to subinhibitory concentration of antibiotics on the genetic level.

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