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J Antimicrob Chemother. 1987 Dec;20(6):783-802.

Origin and evolution of genes specifying resistance to macrolide, lincosamide and streptogramin antibiotics: data and hypotheses.

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Unité des Agents Antibactériens, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique U.A. 271, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Resistance to macrolide, lincosamide and streptogramin antibiotics is due to alteration of the target site or detoxification of the antibiotic. Postranscriptional methylation of 23S ribosomal rRNA confers resistance to macrolide (M), lincosamide (L) and streptogramin (S) B-type antibiotics, the so-called MLSB phenotype. Several classes of rRNA methylases conferring resistance to MLSB antibiotics have been characterized in Gram-positive cocci, in Bacillus spp, and in strains of actinomycetes producing erythromycin. The enzymes catalyze N6-dimethylation of an adenine residue situated in a highly conserved region of prokaryotic 23S rRNA. In this review, we compare the amino acid sequences of the rRNA methylases and analyze the codon usage in the corresponding erm (erythromycin resistance methylase) genes. The homology detected at the protein level is consistent with the notion that an ancestor of the erm genes was implicated in erythromycin resistance in a producing strain. However, the rRNA methylases of producers and non-producers present substantial sequence diversity. In Gram-positive bacteria the preferential codon usage in the erm genes reflects the guanosine plus cytosine content of the chromosome of the host. These observations suggest that the presence of erm genes in these micro-organisms is ancient. By contrast, it would appear that enterobacteria have acquired only recently an rRNA methylase gene of the ermB class from a Gram-positive coccus since the genes isolated in Escherichia coli and in Gram-positive cocci are highly homologous (homology greater than 98%) and present a codon usage typical of the latter micro-organisms. As opposed to the MLSB phenotype which results from a single biochemical mechanism, inactivation of structurally related antibiotics of the MLS group involves synthesis of various other enzymes. In enterobacteria, resistance to erythromycin and oleandomycin is due to production of erythromycin esterases which hydrolyze the lactone ring of the 14-membered macrolides. We recently reported the nucleotide sequence of ereA and ereB (erythromycin resistance esterase) genes which encode erythromycin esterases type I and II, respectively. The amino acid sequences of the two isozymes do not exhibit statistically significant homology. Analysis of codon usage in both genes suggests that esterase type I is indigenous to E. coli, whereas the type II enzyme was acquired by E. coli from a phylogenetically remote micro-organism. Inactivation of lincosamides, first reported in staphylococci and lactobacilli of animal origin, was also recently detected in Gram-positive cocci isolated from humans.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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