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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Jul 15;82(15):4802-4810. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01047-16. Print 2016 Aug 1.

Vibrio anguillarum Is Genetically and Phenotypically Unaffected by Long-Term Continuous Exposure to the Antibacterial Compound Tropodithietic Acid.

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Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark.
Beijing Genomics Institute Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Leibniz Institute, DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, Braunschweig, Germany.
Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark


Minimizing the use of antibiotics in the food production chain is essential for limiting the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One alternative intervention strategy is the use of probiotic bacteria, and bacteria of the marine Roseobacter clade are capable of antagonizing fish-pathogenic vibrios in fish larvae and live feed cultures for fish larvae. The antibacterial compound tropodithietic acid (TDA), an antiporter that disrupts the proton motive force, is key in the antibacterial activity of several roseobacters. Introducing probiotics on a larger scale requires understanding of any potential side effects of long-term exposure of the pathogen to the probionts or any compounds they produce. Here we exposed the fish pathogen Vibrio anguillarum to TDA for several hundred generations in an adaptive evolution experiment. No tolerance or resistance arose during the 90 days of exposure, and whole-genome sequencing of TDA-exposed lineages and clones revealed few mutational changes, compared to lineages grown without TDA. Amino acid-changing mutations were found in two to six different genes per clone; however, no mutations appeared unique to the TDA-exposed lineages or clones. None of the virulence genes of V. anguillarum was affected, and infectivity assays using fish cell lines indicated that the TDA-exposed lineages and clones were less invasive than the wild-type strain. Thus, long-term TDA exposure does not appear to result in TDA resistance and the physiology of V. anguillarum appears unaffected, supporting the application of TDA-producing roseobacters as probiotics in aquaculture.


It is important to limit the use of antibiotics in our food production, to reduce the risk of bacteria developing antibiotic resistance. We showed previously that marine bacteria of the Roseobacter clade can prevent or reduce bacterial diseases in fish larvae, acting as probiotics. Roseobacters produce the antimicrobial compound tropodithietic acid (TDA), and we were concerned regarding whether long-term exposure to this compound could induce resistance or affect the disease-causing ability of the fish pathogen. Therefore, we exposed the fish pathogen Vibrio anguillarum to increasing TDA concentrations over 3 months. We did not see the development of any resistance to TDA, and subsequent infection assays revealed that none of the TDA-exposed clones had increased virulence toward fish cells. Hence, this study supports the use of roseobacters as a non-risk-based disease control measure in aquaculture.

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