b-Lactamase production facilitates bacterial survival in nature and affects many infection therapies. However, much of its regulation remains unexplored. We used a genetics-based approach to identify a two-component system (TCS) present in a strain of Burkholderia thailandensis essential for the regulated expression of a class A b-lactamase gene, penL, by sensing subtle envelope disturbance caused by b-lactams, polymyxin B, or other chemical agents. The genes encoding stress responses and resistance to various antibiotics were coregulated, as were the catabolic genes that enabled the B. thailandensis strain to grow on penicillin G or phenylacetate, a degradation product of penicillin G. This regulon has likely evolved to facilitate bacterial survival in the soil microbiome that contains a multitude of antibiotic producers. Practically, this regulatory system makes this TCS, which we named BesRS, an excellent drug target for the purpose of increasing antibiotic efficacy in combination therapies for Burkholderia infections. IMPORTANCE b-lactam antibiotics are the most frequently used drugs to treat infectious diseases. Although the production of b-lactamases by bacteria is the main cause of treatments being compromised, much of the gene regulation mechanism governing the levels of these enzymes has not been fully explored. In this study, we report a novel b-lactamase gene regulation mechanism that is governed by a two-component system responding to disturbances in the cell envelope. We showed gene regulation is a part of a regulon that includes genes involved in stress responses, resistance to various antibiotics, and a catabolic pathway for b-lactams. This regulon may have been evolved to facilitate bacterial survival in the soil niches, which are highly competitive environments because of the presence of various antibiotic-producing microbes. The discovery of the b-lactamase gene regulation mechanism opens new avenues for developing therapeutic strategies in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the grants NRF-2018M3A9F3055923 and NRF-2015M3C9A4053393 from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of the Republic of Korea. H.S.K. conceived and supervised the project; D.L., J.P., H.Y., K.H.C. performed experiments; H.Y. selected for the besR-null mutants of B. thailandensis E264, constructed various strains, and determined MICs for various antibiotics with the strains; D.L. and J.P. performed b-galactosidase assays, RNA-seq experiments, X-gal plate assays, and bacterial growth assays; K.H.C. performed three-dimensional (3D) modeling of B. thailandensis BesR; H.Y., D.I., J.P., and H.S.K. analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. All of the authors reviewed, revised, and approved the final manuscript. We declare no competing interests.
This work was supported by the grants NRF-2018M3A9F3055923 and NRF-2015M3C9A4053393 from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of the Republic of Korea.
© 2022 Lee et al.
- envelope stress
- two-component system
ASJC Scopus subject areas