Helicobacter pylori uptake and efflux: Basis for intrinsic susceptibility to antibiotics in vitro

J. E. Bina, R. A. Alm, M. Uria-Nickelsen, S. R. Thomas, T. J. Trust, R. E.W. Hancock

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We previously demonstrated (M. M. Exner, P. Doig, T. J. Trust, and R. E. W. Hancock, Infect. Immun. 63: 1567-1572, 1995) that Helicobacter pylori has at least one nonspecific porin, HopE, which has a low abundance in the outer membrane but forms large channels. H. pylori is relatively susceptible to most antimicrobial agents but less susceptible to the polycationic antibiotic polymyxin B. We demonstrate here that H. pylori is able to take up higher basal levels of the hydrophobic fluorescent probe 1-N-phenylnaphthylamine (NPN) than Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Escherichia coli, consistent with its enhanced susceptibility to hydrophobic agents. Addition of polymyxin B led to a further increase in NPN uptake, indicative of a self-promoted uptake pathway, but it required a much higher amount of polymyxin B to yield a 50% increase in NPN uptake in H. pylori (6 to 8 μg/ml) than in P. aeruginosa or E. coli (0.3 to 0.5 μg/ml), suggesting that H. pylori has a less efficient self-promoted uptake pathway. Since intrinsic resistance involves the collaboration of restricted outer membrane permeability and secondary defense mechanisms, such as periplasmic β-lactamase (which H. pylori lacks) or efflux, we examined the possible role of efflux in antibiotic susceptibility. We had previously identified in H. pylori 11637 the presence of portions of three genes with homology to potential restriction-nodulation-division (RND) efflux systems. It was confirmed that H. pylori contained only these three putative RND efflux systems, named here hefABC, hefDEF, and hefGHI, and that the hefGHI system was expressed only in vivo while the two other RND systems were expressed both in vivo and in vitro. In uptake studies, there was no observable energy-dependent tetracycline, chloramphenicol, or NPN efflux activity in H. pylori. Independent mutagenesis of the three putative RND efflux operons in the chromosome of H. pylori had no effect on the in vitro susceptibility of H. pylori to 19 antibiotics. These results, in contrast to what is observed in E. coli, P. aeruginosa, and other clinically important gram-negative bacteria, suggest that active efflux does not play a role in the intrinsic resistance of H. pylori to antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-254
Number of pages7
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Feb 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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