Antibiotic capture by bacterial lipocalins uncovers an extracellular mechanism of intrinsic antibiotic resistance

Omar M. El-Halfawy, Javier Klett, Rebecca J. Ingram, Slade A. Loutet, Michael E. P. Murphy, Sonsoles Martín-Santamaría, Miguel A. Valvano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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The potential for microbes to overcome antibiotics from different classes before they reach the bacterial cells is largely unexplored. Here we show that a soluble bacterial lipocalin produced by Burkholderia cenocepacia upon exposure to sublethal antibiotic concentrations increases resistance against diverse antibiotics in vitro and in vivo. These phenotypes were recapitulated by heterologous expression in B. cenocepacia of lipocalin genes from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Purified lipocalin bound different classes of bactericidal antibiotics and contributed to bacterial survival in vivo. Experimental and X-ray crystal structure-guided computational studies revealed that lipocalins counteract antibiotic action by capturing antibiotics in the extracellular space. We also demonstrated that fat-soluble vitamins prevent antibiotic capture by binding bacterial lipocalin with higher affinity than antibiotics. Therefore, bacterial lipocalins contribute to antimicrobial resistance by capturing diverse antibiotics in the extracellular space at the site of infection, which can be counteracted by known vitamins.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Early online date14 Mar 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 Mar 2017


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