Antibiotics elicit drastic changes in microbial gene expression, including the induction of stress response genes. While certain stress responses are known to "cross-protect" bacteria from other stressors, it is unclear whether cellular responses to antibiotics have a similar protective role. By measuring the genome-wide transcriptional response dynamics of Escherichia coli to four antibiotics, we found that trimethoprim induces a rapid acid stress response that protects bacteria from subsequent exposure to acid. Combining microfluidics with time-lapse imaging to monitor survival and acid stress response in single cells revealed that the noisy expression of the acid resistance operon gadBC correlates with single-cell survival. Cells with higher gadBC expression following trimethoprim maintain higher intracellular pH and survive the acid stress longer. The seemingly random single-cell survival under acid stress can therefore be predicted from gadBC expression and rationalized in terms of GadB/C molecular function. Overall, we provide a roadmap for identifying the molecular mechanisms of single-cell cross-protection between antibiotics and other stressors.
Keywords: Escherichia coli; acid stress; antibiotics; cross-protection; microbial stress response; microfluidics; noise in gene expression; phenotypic heterogeneity; single-cell gene expression dynamics; trimethoprim.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.