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Bicarbonate induces high-level resistance to the human antimicrobial peptide LL-37 in Staphylococcus aureus small colony variants.

The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy (2017-12-07)
Ping Zhang, John A Wright, Anna Tymon, Sean P Nair
ABSTRACT

Staphylococcus aureus small colony variants (SCVs) cause persistent infections and are resistant to cationic antibiotics. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have been suggested as promising alternatives for treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We investigated the capacity of the human cationic AMP LL-37 to kill SCVs in the presence of physiological concentrations of bicarbonate, which are reported to alter bacterial membrane permeability and change resistance of bacteria to AMPs. MBCs of LL-37 for S. aureus SCVs with mutations in different genes in the presence and absence of bicarbonate were determined. In the absence of bicarbonate, SCVs of S. aureus strains LS-1 and 8325-4 had the same level of resistance to LL-37 as the parental strain (8 mg/L). In the presence of bicarbonate, hemB, menD and aroD SCVs of LS-1 had high-level resistance to LL-37 (≥128 mg/L) compared with the parental strain (16 mg/L). However, only the aroD SCV of strain 8324-5 showed high-level resistance. 8325-4 harbours mutations in two genes, tcaR and rsbU, which are involved in antimicrobial sensing and the stress response, respectively. When rsbU was repaired in 8325-4 it displayed high-level resistance to LL-37 in the presence of bicarbonate. This phenotype was lost when tcaR was also repaired, demonstrating that RsbU and TcaR are involved in LL-37 resistance in the presence of bicarbonate. S. aureus SCVs would be resistant to high concentrations of LL-37 in niches where there are physiological concentrations of bicarbonate and therefore this AMP may not be effective in combating SCVs.

MATERIALS
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Sigma-Aldrich
Ganoderic acid A, ≥98% (HPLC)
Millipore
Tryptic Soy Broth, Microbiologically tested., NutriSelect® Basic