Molecular understanding of aminoglycoside action and resistance

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Mar;70(2):140-50. doi: 10.1007/s00253-005-0279-0. Epub 2006 Jan 4.


Aminoglycosides are potent bactericidal antibiotics targeting the bacterial ribosome, where they bind to the A-site and disrupt protein synthesis. They are particularly active against aerobic, Gram-negative bacteria and act synergistically against certain Gram-positive organisms. Aminoglycosides are used in the treatment of severe infections of the abdomen and urinary tract, bacteremia, and endocarditis. They are also used for prophylaxis, especially against endocarditis. Bacterial resistance to aminoglycosides continues to escalate and is widely recognized as a serious health threat. This might be the reason for the interest in understanding the mechanisms of resistance. It is now clear that the resistance occurs by different mechanisms such as prevention of drug entry, active extrusion of drugs, alteration of the drug target (mutational modification of 16S rRNA and mutational modification of ribosomal proteins), and enzymatic inactivation through the expression of enzymes, which covalently modify these antibiotics. Enzymatic inactivation is normally due to acetyltransferases, nucleotidyltransferases, and phosphotransferases. In this review, we focus on the recent concept of molecular understanding of aminoglycoside action and resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides / chemistry
  • Aminoglycosides / metabolism
  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Humans


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents