Antibiotic-Independent Adaptive Effects of Antibiotic Resistance Mutations

Trends Genet. 2017 Aug;33(8):521-528. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 Jun 16.


Antibiotic usage selects for the accumulation and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, resistance can also accumulate in the absence of antibiotic exposure. Antibiotics are often designed to target widely distributed regulatory housekeeping genes. The targeting of such genes enables these antibiotics to be useful against a wider variety of pathogens. This review highlights work suggesting that regulatory housekeeping genes of the type targeted by many antibiotics function as hubs of adaptation to conditions unrelated to antibiotic exposure. As a result of this, some mutations to the regulatory housekeeping gene targets of antibiotics confer both antibiotic resistance and an adaptive effect unrelated to antibiotic exposure. Such antibiotic-independent adaptive effects of resistance mutations may substantially affect the dynamics of antibiotic resistance accumulation and spread.

Keywords: adaptation; antibiotic resistance; evolution; fitness effects.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Genes, Essential
  • Genes, Regulator
  • Mutation*