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An active β‐lactamase is a part of an orchestrated cell wall stress resistance network of Bacillus subtilis and related rhizosphere species

Bucher, Tabitha, Keren‐Paz, Alona, Hausser, Jean, Olender, Tsviya, Cytryn, Eddie, Kolodkin‐Gal, Ilana
Environmental microbiology 2019 v.21 no.3 pp. 1068-1085
Bacillus subtilis, Gram-positive bacteria, ampicillin, antibiotic resistance genes, bambermycin, beta-lactamase, biofilm, cell walls, leucine, malnutrition, rhizosphere, soil, soil bacteria, stress response, stress tolerance
A hallmark of the Gram‐positive bacteria, such as the soil‐dwelling bacterium Bacillus subtilis, is their cell wall. Here, we report that d‐leucine and flavomycin, biofilm inhibitors targeting the cell wall, activate the β‐lactamase PenP. This β‐lactamase contributes to ampicillin resistance in B. subtilis under all conditions tested. In contrast, both Spo0A, a master regulator of nutritional stress, and the general cell wall stress response, differentially contribute to β‐lactam resistance under different conditions. To test whether β‐lactam resistance and β‐lactamase genes are widespread in other Bacilli, we isolated Bacillus species from undisturbed soils, and found that their genomes can encode up to five β‐lactamases with differentiated activity spectra. Surprisingly, the activity of environmental β‐lactamases and PenP, as well as the general stress response, resulted in a similarly reduced lag phase of the culture in the presence of β‐lactam antibiotics, with little or no impact on the logarithmic growth rate. The length of the lag phase may determine the outcome of the competition between β‐lactams and β‐lactamases producers. Overall, our work suggests that antibiotic resistance genes in B. subtilis and related species are ancient and widespread, and could be selected by interspecies competition in undisturbed soils.