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MBio. 2015 Mar 24;6(2). pii: e00309-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00309-15.

Contribution of resistance-nodulation-cell division efflux systems to antibiotic resistance and biofilm formation in Acinetobacter baumannii.

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Institut Pasteur, Unité des Agents Antibactériens, Paris, France.
Laboratory Polymères, Biopolymères, Surfaces, UMR 6270 and FR 3038 CNRS, IRIB, University of Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France.
Multidrug-resistant Organism Repository and Surveillance Network, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.
Institut Pasteur, Unité des Agents Antibactériens, Paris, France


Acinetobacter baumannii is a nosocomial pathogen of increasing importance due to its multiple resistance to antibiotics and ability to survive in the hospital environment linked to its capacity to form biofilms. To fully characterize the contribution of AdeABC, AdeFGH, and AdeIJK resistance-nodulation-cell division (RND)-type efflux systems to acquired and intrinsic resistance, we constructed, from an entirely sequenced susceptible A. baumannii strain, a set of isogenic mutants overexpressing each system following introduction of a point mutation in their cognate regulator or a deletion for the pump by allelic replacement. Pairwise comparison of every derivative with the parental strain indicated that AdeABC and AdeFGH are tightly regulated and contribute to acquisition of antibiotic resistance when overproduced. AdeABC had a broad substrate range, including β-lactams, fluoroquinolones, tetracyclines-tigecycline, macrolides-lincosamides, and chloramphenicol, and conferred clinical resistance to aminoglycosides. Importantly, when combined with enzymatic resistance to carbapenems and aminoglycosides, this pump contributed in a synergistic fashion to the level of resistance of the host. In contrast, AdeIJK was expressed constitutively and was responsible for intrinsic resistance to the same major drug classes as AdeABC as well as antifolates and fusidic acid. Surprisingly, overproduction of AdeABC and AdeIJK altered bacterial membrane composition, resulting in decreased biofilm formation but not motility. Natural transformation and plasmid transfer were diminished in recipients overproducing AdeABC. It thus appears that alteration in the expression of efflux systems leads to multiple changes in the relationship between the host and its environment, in addition to antibiotic resistance.


Increased expression of chromosomal genes for RND-type efflux systems plays a major role in bacterial multidrug resistance. Acinetobacter baumannii has recently emerged as an important human pathogen responsible for epidemics of hospital-acquired infections. Besides its remarkable ability to horizontally acquire resistance determinants, it has a broad intrinsic resistance due to low membrane permeability, endogenous resistance genes, and antibiotic efflux. The study of isogenic mutants from a susceptible A. baumannii clinical isolate overproducing or deleted for each of the three major RND-type pumps demonstrated their major contribution to intrinsic resistance and to the synergism between overproduction of an efflux system and acquisition of a resistance gene. We have also shown that modulation of expression of the structural genes for the efflux systems results in numerous alterations in membrane-associated cellular functions, in particular, in a decrease in biofilm formation and resistance gene acquisition.

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