Overexpression of the rhamnose catabolism regulatory protein, RhaR: a novel mechanism for metronidazole resistance in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron

E.H. Patel, L.V. Paul, A.I. Casanueva, Sheila Patrick, V.R. Abratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The aim of the investigation was to use in vitro transposon mutagenesis to generate metronidazole resistance in the obligately anaerobic pathogenic bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, and to identify the genes involved to enable investigation of potential mechanisms for the generation of metronidazole resistance.
Methods: The genes affected by the transposon insertion were identified by plasmid rescue and sequencing. Expression levels of the relevant genes were determined by semi-quantitative RNA hybridization and catabolic activity by lactate dehydrogenase/pyruvate oxidoreductase assays.
Results: A metronidazole-resistant mutant was isolated and the transposon insertion site was identified in an intergenic region between the rhaO and rhaR genes of the gene cluster involved in the uptake and catabolism of rhamnose. Metronidazole resistance was observed during growth in defined medium containing either rhamnose or glucose. The metronidazole-resistant mutant showed improved growth in the presence of rhamnose as compared with the wild-type parent. There was increased transcription of all genes of the rhamnose gene cluster in the presence of rhamnose and glucose, likely due to the transposon providing an additional promoter for the rhaR gene, encoding the positive transcriptional regulator of the rhamnose operon. The B. thetaiotaomicron metronidazole resistance phenotype was recreated by overexpressing the rhaR gene in the B. thetaiotaomicron wild-type parent. Both the metronidazole-resistant transposon mutant and RhaR overexpression strains displayed a phenotype of higher lactate dehydrogenase and lower pyruvate oxidoreductase activity in comparison with the parent strain during growth in rhamnose.
Conclusions: These data indicate that overexpression of the rhaR gene generates metronidazole resistance in B. thetaiotaomicron
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-273
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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