Expression of the multiple antibiotic resistance operon (mar) during growth of Escherichia coli as a biofilm

J Appl Microbiol. 2000 Feb;88(2):243-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2000.00963.x.


The multiple antibiotic resistance (mar) operon is a global regulator controlling the expression of various genes in Escherichia coli which constitutes the mar regulon. Upregulation of mar leads to a multi-drug resistant phenotype, which includes resistance towards structurally unrelated antibiotics, organic solvents and the disinfectant pine oil. Biofilms also display similar decreases in susceptibility to antimicrobial agents. A marOII-lacZ fusion strain (SPC105) of E. coli was used to monitor mar expression under various growth conditions including batch, continuous and biofilm culture. In chemically-defined media (CDM), mar expression was maximal in mid-log and declined in the stationary phase. Conversely, in rich media (Luria-Bertani broth), minimal expression in mid-log was followed by an increase in the stationary phase. In continuous culture, expression was inversely related to specific growth rate (mu = 0.05-0.4 h-1). LacZ expression by the marOII-lacZ fusion was generally low within the total biofilm population and equivalent to that of stationary phase cultures grown in batch culture. When the expression of mar in CDM batch culture was compared with that in biofilm populations, beta-galactosidase activity was generally higher throughout batch culture than in the attached population. Overall, these results suggest that while mar expression will be greatest within the depths of a biofilm where growth rates are suppressed, its probable induction within biofilms cannot explain the elevated levels of antibiotic resistance observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Culture Media
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression
  • Operon / genetics*
  • Regulon
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • beta-Galactosidase