Send to

Choose Destination
J Bacteriol. 1996 Jul;178(13):3818-28.

Mecillinam resistance in Escherichia coli is conferred by loss of a second activity of the AroK protein.

Author information

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2785, USA.


Mecillinam, a beta-lactam antibiotic specific to penicillin-binding protein 2 (PBP 2) in Escherichia coli, blocks cell wall elongation and, indirectly, cell division, but its lethality can be overcome by increased levels of ppGpp, the nucleotide effector of the stringent response. We have subjected an E. coli K-12 strain to random insertional mutagenesis with a mini-Tn10 element. One insertion, which was found to confer resistance to mecillinam in relA+ and relA strains, was mapped at 75.5 min on the E. coli map and was located between the promoters and the coding sequence of the aroK gene, which codes for shikimate kinase 1, one of two E. coli shikimate kinases, both of which are involved in aromatic amino acid biosynthesis. The mecillinam resistance conferred by the insertion was abolished in a delta relA delta spoT strain completely lacking ppGpp, and it thus depends on the presence of ppGpp. Furthermore, the insertion increased the ppGpp pool approximately twofold in a relA+ strain. However, this increase was not observed in relA strains, although the insertion still conferred mecillinam resistance in these backgrounds, showing that mecillinam resistance is not due to an increased ppGpp pool. The resistance was also abolished in an ftsZ84(Ts) strain under semipermissive conditions, and the aroK::mini-Tn10 allele partially suppressed ftsZ84(Ts); however, it did not increase the concentration of the FtsZ cell division protein. The insertion greatly decreased or abolished the shikimate kinase activity of AroK in vivo and in vitro. The two shikimate kinases of E. coli are not equivalent; the loss of AroK confers mecillinam resistance, whereas the loss of Arol, does not. Furthermore, the ability of the aroK mutation to confer mecillinam resistance is shown to be independent of polar effects on operon expression and of effects on the availability of aromatic amino acids or shikimic acid. Instead, we conclude that the AroK protein has a second activity, possibly related to cell division regulation, which confers mecillinam sensitivity. We were able to separate the AroK activities mutationally with an aroK mutant allele lacking shikimate kinase activity but still able to confer mecillinam sensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center