Objectives: To elucidate the role of the pcm-tolCsm operon in the multidrug resistance of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia.
Methods: The presence of the pcm-tolCsm operon was verified by RT-PCR. The phylogenetic relationship between the outer membrane proteins known to be involved in functional tripartite efflux in Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and S. maltophilia was analysed. The contribution of TolCsm to resistance to a variety of compounds was investigated by susceptibility testing of the ΔtolCsm mutant. The role of pcm in the expression and function of tolCsm was assessed by quantitative real-time PCR and complementation assay.
Results: The pcm and tolCsm genes formed an operon. TolCsm of S. maltophilia, OpmH of P. aeruginosa and TolC of E. coli formed a distinguishing phylogenetic TolC-like clade. TolCsm deletion increased the susceptibility of S. maltophilia KJ2 to several antimicrobial agents (aminoglycoside, macrolide, β-lactam, chloramphenicol, nalidixic acid, doxycycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole) and chemical compounds (acriflavine, carbonyl cyanide 3-chlorophenylhydrazone, crystal violet, fusaric acid, menadione, Paraquat, plumbagin, SDS and tetrachlorosalicylanilide). The in-frame deletion of pcm caused a polar effect on the expression of tolCsm, which compromised the resistance to amikacin and gentamicin. Nevertheless, the presence of the PCM protein made an insignificant contribution to the function of TolCsm in the resistance to amikacin and gentamicin.
Conclusions: The pcm-tolCsm operon makes a significant contribution to the multidrug resistance of S. maltophilia.
Keywords: RND-type efflux pumps; outer membrane proteins; tripartite efflux pumps.