Evolution of resistance mechanisms and biological characteristics of rifampicin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains selected in vitro

Research paper by Chong Wang, Renchi Fang, Beibei Zhou, Xuebin Tian, Xiucai Zhang, Xiangkuo Zheng, Siqin Zhang, Guofeng Dong, Jianming Cao, Tieli Zhou

Indexed on: 26 Nov '20Published on: 18 Sep '19Published in: BMC Microbiology


We aimed to determine the evolutionary pathways of rifampicin resistance in Staphylococcus aureus, and the impact of resistance mutations in the rpoB gene on fitness.Three clinical strains and one reference strain were used to select for rifampicin-resistant S. aureus variants. The mutations responsible for rifampicin resistance in all of the selected isolates in vitro were investigated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing. To compare the fitness cost of rpoB mutations against their corresponding original isolates, we performed bacterial growth curve assays, static biofilm assays, in vitro competition experiments and an infection model of Galleria mellonella larvae.We obtained four rifampicin-resistant S. aureus isolates that showed high levels of resistance to rifampicin with a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 128 mg/L, and all isolates had a mutation at position 481 (H481F/Y) in RpoB. A broth microdilution assay indicated that mutation of H481F/Y did not affect susceptibility to common antibacterial drugs but slightly increased the vancomycin MIC. To identify the pathways involved in the development of rifampicin resistance, 32 variants (eight mutants for each strain) and four original isolates were selected for gene sequencing. Different generations of isolates were found to harbor various mutations sites. Compared with the corresponding original isolates, an in vitro fitness assay of the variant isolates showed that growth and virulence were reduced, with a statistically significantly decreased fitness, whereas the capacity for biofilm formation was elevated.Our findings suggested that the acquisition of rifampicin resistance in S. aureus was dynamic and was associated with a significant fitness cost.

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