Modulation of secreted virulence factor genes by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
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Recent studies have shown that subinhibitory antibiotics play important roles in regulating bacterial genes including virulence factor genes. In this study, the expression of 13 secreted virulence related gene clusters of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an important opportunistic pathogen, was examined in the presence of subinhibitory concentrations of 4 antibiotics: vancomycin, tetracycline, ampicillin and azithromycin. Activation of gene expression was observed with phzAl, rhlAB, phzA2, lasB, exoY, and exoS. Subinhibitory concentrations of vancomycin resulted in more than 10-fold increase of rhlAB and phzA2 transcription. Both rhamnolipid production and pyocyanin production were significantly elevated, correlating phenotypes with the increased transcription. P. aeruginosa swarming and swimming motility also increased. Similar results were observed with subinhibitory tetracycline, azithromycin and ampicillin. These results indicate that the antibiotics at low concentrations can up-regulate virulence factors and therefore influence bacterial pathogenesis.
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