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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1610. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2607.

β-Lactam antibiotics promote bacterial mutagenesis via an RpoS-mediated reduction in replication fidelity.

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INSERM U1001, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Faculté de Médecine Paris Descartes, Paris, France.


Regardless of their targets and modes of action, subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics can have an impact on cell physiology and trigger a large variety of cellular responses in different bacterial species. Subinhibitory concentrations of β-lactam antibiotics cause reactive oxygen species production and induce PolIV-dependent mutagenesis in Escherichia coli. Here we show that subinhibitory concentrations of β-lactam antibiotics induce the RpoS regulon. RpoS-regulon induction is required for PolIV-dependent mutagenesis because it diminishes the control of DNA-replication fidelity by depleting MutS in E. coli, Vibrio cholerae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We also show that in E. coli, the reduction in mismatch-repair activity is mediated by SdsR, the RpoS-controlled small RNA. In summary, we show that mutagenesis induced by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics is a genetically controlled process. Because this mutagenesis can generate mutations conferring antibiotic resistance, it should be taken into consideration for the development of more efficient antimicrobial therapeutic strategies.

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