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J Antimicrob Chemother. 1997 Oct;40(4):525-32.

Mechanism and stability of hyperproduction of the extended-spectrum beta-lactamase SHV-5 in Klebsiella pneumoniae.

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Department of Microbiology, UMDS, London, UK.


Some isolates of SHV-5 beta-lactamase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae K2 from a single-strain outbreak of cross-infection produced approximately five-fold more beta-lactamase than others. We investigated three possible genetic mechanisms of this hyperproduction: the presence of a more powerful promoter, an increase in plasmid copy number or an amplification of the gene on a plasmid. No differences between low and high beta-lactamase producers were detected in the promoter region of the SHV-5 beta-lactamase gene, which closely resembled that of SHV-2. SHV-5 beta-lactamase production was encoded on a low copy number plasmid, but DNA-DNA hybridization with an SHV-specific probe detected a higher gene dose in hyperproducers. The beta-lactamase hyperproduction was unstable on repeated subculture, with a reduction of about 75% after 100 generations. Hyperproducing mutants of a low-producing Klebsiella and its Escherichia coli K-12 transconjugants could be selected in vitro at a frequency of 10(-5) to 10(-6) and these variants had an increased SHV-5 beta-lactamase gene copy number on low copy number plasmids. We conclude that hyperproduction of the extended-spectrum beta-lactamase was caused by gene amplification that could be easily lost or gained in vitro. Since the change to hyperproduction occurred at a high frequency and hyperproducers showed increased resistance to many beta-lactams and beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitor combinations, we suspect that these variants may readily be selected in patients during antibiotic therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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