Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23613664
Link to DOI – 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003421
PLoS Genet 2013 ; 9(4): e1003421
Bacteria encounter sub-inhibitory concentrations of antibiotics in various niches, where these low doses play a key role for antibiotic resistance selection. However, the physiological effects of these sub-lethal concentrations and their observed connection to the cellular mechanisms generating genetic diversification are still poorly understood. It is known that, unlike for the model bacterium Escherichia coli, sub-minimal inhibitory concentrations (sub-MIC) of aminoglycosides (AGs) induce the SOS response in Vibrio cholerae. SOS is induced upon DNA damage, and since AGs do not directly target DNA, we addressed two issues in this study: how sub-MIC AGs induce SOS in V. cholerae and why they do not do so in E. coli. We found that when bacteria are grown with tobramycin at a concentration 100-fold below the MIC, intracellular reactive oxygen species strongly increase in V. cholerae but not in E. coli. Using flow cytometry and gfp fusions with the SOS regulated promoter of intIA, we followed AG-dependent SOS induction. Testing the different mutation repair pathways, we found that over-expression of the base excision repair (BER) pathway protein MutY relieved this SOS induction in V. cholerae, suggesting a role for oxidized guanine in AG-mediated indirect DNA damage. As a corollary, we established that a BER pathway deficient E. coli strain induces SOS in response to sub-MIC AGs. We finally demonstrate that the RpoS general stress regulator prevents oxidative stress-mediated DNA damage formation in E. coli. We further show that AG-mediated SOS induction is conserved among the distantly related Gram negative pathogens Klebsiella pneumoniae and Photorhabdus luminescens, suggesting that E. coli is more of an exception than a paradigm for the physiological response to antibiotics sub-MIC.