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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Aug;57(8):3789-96. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00164-13. Epub 2013 May 28.

Methylation of 23S rRNA nucleotide G748 by RlmAII methyltransferase renders Streptococcus pneumoniae telithromycin susceptible.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan.


Several posttranscriptional modifications of bacterial rRNAs are important in determining antibiotic resistance or sensitivity. In all Gram-positive bacteria, dimethylation of nucleotide A2058, located in domain V of 23S rRNA, by the dimethyltransferase Erm(B) results in low susceptibility and resistance to telithromycin (TEL). However, this is insufficient to produce high-level resistance to TEL in Streptococcus pneumoniae. Inactivation of the methyltransferase RlmA(II), which methylates the N-1 position of nucleotide G748, located in hairpin 35 of domain II of 23S rRNA, results in increased resistance to TEL in erm(B)-carrying S. pneumoniae. Sixteen TEL-resistant mutants (MICs, 16 to 32 μg/ml) were obtained from a clinically isolated S. pneumoniae strain showing low TEL susceptibility (MIC, 2 μg/ml), with mutation resulting in constitutive dimethylation of A2058 because of nucleotide differences in the regulatory region of erm(B) mRNA. Primer extension analysis showed that the degree of methylation at G748 in all TEL-resistant mutants was significantly reduced by a mutation in the gene encoding RlmA(II) to create a stop codon or change an amino acid residue. Furthermore, RNA footprinting with dimethyl sulfate and a molecular modeling study suggested that methylation of G748 may contribute to the stable interaction of TEL with domain II of 23S rRNA, even after dimethylation of A2058 by Erm(B). This novel finding shows that methylation of G748 by RlmA(II) renders S. pneumoniae TEL susceptible.

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