International journal of molecular sciences

Heavy Metal Induced Antibiotic Resistance in Bacterium LSJC7.

PMID 26426011


Co-contamination of antibiotics and heavy metals prevails in the environment, and may play an important role in disseminating bacterial antibiotic resistance, but the selective effects of heavy metals on bacterial antibiotic resistance is largely unclear. To investigate this, the effects of heavy metals on antibiotic resistance were studied in a genome-sequenced bacterium, LSJC7. The results showed that the presence of arsenate, copper, and zinc were implicated in fortifying the resistance of LSJC7 towards tetracycline. The concentrations of heavy metals required to induce antibiotic resistance, i.e., the minimum heavy metal concentrations (MHCs), were far below (up to 64-fold) the minimum inhibition concentrations (MIC) of LSJC7. This finding indicates that the relatively low heavy metal levels in polluted environments and in treated humans and animals might be sufficient to induce bacterial antibiotic resistance. In addition, heavy metal induced antibiotic resistance was also observed for a combination of arsenate and chloramphenicol in LSJC7, and copper/zinc and tetracycline in antibiotic susceptible strain Escherichia coli DH5α. Overall, this study implies that heavy metal induced antibiotic resistance might be ubiquitous among various microbial species and suggests that it might play a role in the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance in metal and antibiotic co-contaminated environments.