Editors' ChoiceMicrobiology

Arrest and Tolerate

Sci. Signal.  22 Nov 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 200, pp. ec328
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4200ec328

When starving bacteria arrest their growth, they can resist killing by nearly all classes of antibiotics. Starvation is also a major cause of drug tolerance in biofilms, a bacterial community structure found in many chronic infections. Nguyen et al. (see the Perspective by Belenky and Collins) show that such antibiotic tolerance occurs not because the targets for antibiotics have become inactive during growth arrest but because starvation-sensing mechanisms generate protective responses. Bacterial mutants unable to detect nutrient limitation were orders of magnitude more sensitive to antibiotic exposure, were less able to establish animal infections, and failed to generate antibiotic-resistant mutants.

D. Nguyen, A. Joshi-Datar, F. Lepine, E. Bauerle, O. Olakanmi, K. Beer, G. McKay, R. Siehnel, J. Schafhauser, Y. Wang, B. E. Britigan, P. K. Singh, Active starvation responses mediate antibiotic tolerance in biofilms and nutrient-limited bacteria. Science 334, 982–986 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]

P. Belenky, J. J. Collins, Antioxidant strategies to tolerate antibiotics. Science 334, 915–916 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]

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