Rapidly correcting frameshift mutations in the mycobacterium tuberculosis orn gene produce reversible ethambutol resistance and small-colony-variant morphology

Hassan Safi, Subramanya Lingaraju, Shuyi Ma, Seema Husain, Mainul Hoque, Patricia Soteropoulos, Tige Rustad, David R. Sherman, David Alland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We have identified a previously unknown mechanism of reversible high-level ethambutol (EMB) resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is caused by a reversible frameshift mutation in the M. tuberculosis orn gene. A frameshift mutation in orn produces the small-colony-variant (SCV) phenotype, but this mutation does not change the MICs of any drug for wild-type M. tuberculosis. However, the same orn mutation in a low-level EMB-resistant double embB-aftA mutant (MIC=8 μg/ml) produces an SCV with an EMB MIC of 32 μg/ml. Reversible resistance is indistinguishable from a drug-persistent phenotype, because further culture of these ornembB- aftA SCV mutants results in rapid reversion of the orn frameshifts, reestablishing the correct orn open reading frame, returning the culture to normal colony size, and reversing the EMB MIC back to that (8 μg/ml) of the parental strain. Transcriptomic analysis of orn-embB-aftA mutants compared to wild-type M. tuberculosis identified a 27-fold relative increase in the expression of embC, which is a cellular target for EMB. Expression of embC in orn-embB-aftA mutants was also increased 5-fold compared to that in the parental embB-aftA mutant, whereas large-colony orn frameshift revertants of the orn-embB-aftA mutant had levels of embC expression similar to that of the parental embB-aftA strain. Reversible frameshift mutants may contribute to a reversible form of microbiological drug resistance in human tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00213-20
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Volume64
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology

Keywords

  • Cas genes
  • Drug resistance
  • EmbC
  • Ethambutol
  • Orn
  • Reversible frameshift
  • Small-colony variant

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