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Lewis, Kim; Paulsson, Johan
Northeastern University
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AbstractThe goal of the project is to determine the nature of bacterial drug tolerance.Two different types of mechanisms allow bacteria to evade killing by antibiotics ? resistance; and toleranceconferred by persister cells. Unlike resistance, our knowledge of tolerance is limited. Paradoxically, mostpathogens that cause chronic infections recalcitrant to antimicrobial chemotherapy are not drug resistant.Tolerance has been linked to persisters, a small subpopulation of dormant cells that survive antibiotics. Manychronic infections are associated with biofilms, which protect persisters from the immune system. Anunderstanding of the mechanism of persister drug tolerance will close a significant gap in knowledge and willcontribute to the development of better approaches to treat chronic infections. The current paradigm, based primarily on the study of E. coli, holds that mechanisms of persisterformation are not conserved among bacteria, and are governed by toxin-antitoxin modules (TA). However, werecently reported that in S. aureus, TAs play no role in persister formation. Rather, a stochastic decrease inATP in rare cells produces dormant persisters. We then found that a decrease in ATP is linked to persisterformation in E. coli as well. We also established that while some TAs play a role in persister formation underspecific conditions in E. coli, this is not the main mechanism. In this project, we will determine the general mechanism by which persisters form in bacteria using E.coli, a representative Gram negative pathogen, and S. aureus, a Gram positive species,. Our preliminary dataindicate that stochastic variation in expression of energy producing components - Krebs cycle and glycolyticenzymes - leads to low ATP and persisters. In this project, we will use direct reporters for protein expressionand ATP to establish causality between energy producing components and persisters. Apart from conventionaltime-lapse microscopy, we will take advantage of the ?mother machine?, a massively parallel microfluidicsinstrument that allows simultaneous analysis of millions of individual cells. Another important unanswered question is the link between persisters and the clinical manifestation ofdisease. While indirect evidence points to persisters, causality is yet to be established. In this project, we willdesign pathogen strains with diminished; and overexpressed production of persisters, and link their levels toantibiotic tolerance in biofilm models of murine chronic infection. This project will provide a new paradigm forthe understanding of recalcitrance of chronic diseases, and new tools for the study of persisters. This is a multi-PI collaboration between Dr. Kim Lewis, a microbiologist who pioneered the studies ofpersisters in chronic infections, and Dr. Johan Paulsson, a biophysicist who pioneered massively parallelsingle-cell analysis.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Project source
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Project number
Bacterial Pathogens