Such infections occur within hypoxic mucous deposits in the cystic fibrosis lung; however, little is known about how the hypoxic microenvironment influences pathogen behavior.
Here we investigated the impact of hypoxia on antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa.
The MICs of a selection of antibiotics were determined for P. aeruginosa grown under either normoxic or hypoxic conditions.
The expression of mRNAs for resistance-nodulation-cell division (RND) multidrug efflux pump linker proteins was determined by real-time PCR, and multidrug efflux pump activity was inhibited using Phe-Arg β-naphthylamide dihydrochloride.
The MIC values of a subset of clinically important P. aeruginosa antibiotics were higher for bacteria incubated under hypoxia than under normoxia. Furthermore, hypoxia altered the stoichiometry of multidrug efflux pump linker protein subtype expression, and pharmacologic inhibition of these pumps reversed hypoxia-induced antibiotic resistance.
We hypothesize that hypoxia increases multidrug resistance in P. aeruginosa by shifting multidrug efflux pump linker protein expression toward a dominance of MexEF-OprN. Thus, microenvironmental hypoxia may contribute significantly to the development of antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa infecting cystic fibrosis patients.