Bacterial interspecies interactions modulate pH-mediated antibiotic tolerance

Elife. 2020 Jan 29;9:e51493. doi: 10.7554/eLife.51493.


Predicting antibiotic efficacy within microbial communities remains highly challenging. Interspecies interactions can impact antibiotic activity through many mechanisms, including alterations to bacterial physiology. Here, we studied synthetic communities constructed from the core members of the fruit fly gut microbiota. Co-culturing of Lactobacillus plantarum with Acetobacter species altered its tolerance to the transcriptional inhibitor rifampin. By measuring key metabolites and environmental pH, we determined that Acetobacter species counter the acidification driven by L. plantarum production of lactate. Shifts in pH were sufficient to modulate L. plantarum tolerance to rifampin and the translational inhibitor erythromycin. A reduction in lag time exiting stationary phase was linked to L. plantarum tolerance to rifampicin, opposite to a previously identified mode of tolerance to ampicillin in E. coli. This mechanistic understanding of the coupling among interspecies interactions, environmental pH, and antibiotic tolerance enables future predictions of growth and the effects of antibiotics in more complex communities.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; Lactobacillus plantarum; antibiotic tolerance; ecology; gut microbiota; infectious disease; interspecies interactions; microbiology; rifampin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Microbiota / drug effects
  • Species Specificity


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents