Global regulator SoxR is a negative regulator of efflux pump gene expression and affects antibiotic resistance and fitness in Acinetobacter baumannii

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Abstract

SoxR is a global regulator contributing to multidrug resistance in Enterobacteriaceae. However, the contribution of SoxR to antibiotic resistance and fitness in Acinetobacter baumannii has not yet been studied. Comparisons of molecular characteristics were performed between 32 multidrug-resistant A. baumannii isolates and 11 susceptible isolates. A soxR overexpression mutant was constructed, and its resistance phenotype was analyzed. The impact of SoxR on efflux pump gene expression was measured at the transcription level. The effect of SoxR on the growth and fitness of A. baumannii was analyzed using a growth rate assay and an in vitro competition assay. The frequency of the Gly39Ser mutation in soxR was higher in multidrug-resistant A. baumannii, whereas the soxS gene was absent in all strains analyzed. SoxR overexpression led to increased susceptibility to chloramphenicol (4-fold), tetracycline (2-fold), tigecycline (2-fold), ciprofloxacin (2-fold), amikacin (2-fold), and trimethoprim (2-fold), but it did not influence imipenem susceptibility. Decreased expression of abeS (3.8-fold), abeM (1.3-fold), adeJ (2.4-fold), and adeG (2.5-fold) were correlated with soxR overexpression (P < .05). However, the expression levels of adeB and craA showed no obvious difference in the soxR-overexpression mutant. Competitive growth test results showed that soxR overexpression led to a lower growth rate, which was associated with a significant fitness cost in vitro. These results reveal that the global regulator SoxR is a negative regulator of efflux pump gene expression, and contributes to antibiotic resistance and fitness in A. baumannii.

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