Evaluation of Acquired Antibiotic Resistance in Escherichia coli Exposed to Long-Term Low-Shear Modeled Microgravity and Background Antibiotic Exposure


The long-term response of microbial communities to the microgravity environment of space is not yet fully understood. Of special interest is the possibility that members of these communities may acquire antibiotic resistance. In this study, Escherichia coli cells were grown under low-shear modeled microgravity (LSMMG) conditions for over 1,000 generations (1000G) using chloramphenicol treatment between cycles to prevent contamination. The results were compared with data from an earlier control study done under identical conditions using steam sterilization between cycles rather than chloramphenicol. The sensitivity of the final 1000G-adapted strain to a variety of antibiotics was determined using Vitek analysis. In addition to resistance to chloramphenicol, the adapted strain acquired resistance to cefalotin, cefuroxime, cefuroxime axetil, cefoxitin, and tetracycline. In fact, the resistance to chloramphenicol and cefalotin persisted for over 110 generations despite the removal of both LSMMG conditions and trace antibiotic exposure. Genome sequencing of the adapted strain revealed 22 major changes, including 3 transposon-mediated rearrangements (TMRs). Two TMRs disrupted coding genes (involved in bacterial adhesion), while the third resulted in the deletion of an entire segment (14,314 bp) of the genome, which includes 14 genes involved with motility and chemotaxis. These results are in stark contrast with data from our earlier control study in which cells grown under the identical conditions without antibiotic exposure never acquired antibiotic resistance. Overall, LSMMG does not appear to alter the antibiotic stress resistance seen in microbial ecosystems not exposed to microgravity.




Copyright 2019 mBio. Recommended citation: Tirumalai, Madhan R., Fathi Karouia, Quyen Tran, Victor G. Stepanov, Rebekah J. Bruce, C. Mark Ott, Duane L. Pierson, and George E. Fox. "Evaluation of acquired antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli exposed to long-term low-shear modeled microgravity and background antibiotic exposure." mBio 10, no. 1 (2019): e02637-18. DOI:10.1128/mBio.02637-18. URL: https://mbio.asm.org/content/10/1/e02637-18. Reproduced in accordance with the original publisher's licensing terms and with permission forom the author(s).