P>Burkholderia cenocepacia is an environmental bacterium causing serious human opportunistic infections and is extremely resistant to multiple antibiotics including antimicrobial peptides, such as polymyxin B (PmB). Extreme antibiotic resistance is attributed to outer membrane impermeability ('intrinsic' resistance). Previous work showed that production of full-length lipopolysaccharide (LPS) prevents surface binding of PmB. We hypothesized that two tiers of resistance mechanisms rendering different thresholds of PmB resistance exist in B. cenocepacia. To test this notion, candidate genes were mutated in two isogenic strains expressing full-length LPS or truncated LPS devoid of heptose ('heptoseless LPS') respectively. We uncovered various proteins required for PmB resistance only in the strain with heptoseless LPS. These proteins are not involved in preventing PmB binding to whole cells or permeabilization of the outer membrane. Our results support a two-tier model of PmB resistance in B. cenocepacia. One tier sets a very high threshold mediated by the LPS and the outer membrane permeability barrier. The second tier sets a lower threshold that may play a role in PmB resistance only when outer membrane permeability is compromised. This model may be of general applicability to understanding the high antimicrobial peptide resistance of environmental opportunistic pathogens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics