Within-host acquisition of colistin-resistance of an NDM-producing Klebsiella quasipneumoniae subsp. similipneumoniae strain through the insertion sequence- 903B-mediated inactivation of mgrB gene in a lung transplant child in China

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 Aug 31:13:1153387. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2023.1153387. eCollection 2023.


Background: Colistin, as the antibiotic of "last resort" for carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella, develop resistance during administration of this antimicrobial agent. We identified an NDM-1-producing Klebsiella quasipneumonuae subsp. similipneumoniae (KQSS) strain KQ20605 recovered from a child, which developed resistance to colistin (KQ20786) through acquiring an IS903B element between the -27th and -26th bp of mgrB promoter region after 6-day colistin usage.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to explore the source of IS903B in the disruptive mgrB gene and its underlying mechanisms.

Materials and methods: Antibiotics susceptibility testing was conducted via microbroth dilution method. The in vitro colistin-induced experiment of KQ20605 was performed to mimic the in vivo transition from colistin-sensitive to resistant. Whole-genome sequencing was used to molecular identification of colistin resistance mechanism.

Results: The IS903B element integrated into mgrB gene of KQ20786 had a 100% nucleotide identity and coverage match with one IS903B on plasmid IncR, and only 95.1% (1005/1057) identity to those on chromosome. In vitro, upon the pressure of colistin, KQ20605 could also switch its phenotype from colistin-sensitive to resistant with IS elements (e.g., IS903B and IS26) frequently inserted into mgrB gene at "hotspots", with the insertion site of IS903B nearly identical to that of KQ20786. Furthermore, IS26 elements in this isolate were only encoded by plasmids, including IncR and conjugative plasmid IncN harboring bla NDM.

Conclusion: Mobilizable IS elements on plasmids tend to be activated and integrated into mgrB gene at "hotspots" in this KQSS, thereby causing the colistin resistance emergence and further dissemination.

Keywords: Klebsiella quasipneumoniae subsp. similipneumoniae; colistin; insertional sequence; mgrB gene; within-host evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • China
  • Colistin / pharmacology
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Humans
  • Klebsiella / genetics
  • Lung Transplantation*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Colistin

Supplementary concepts

  • Klebsiella quasipneumoniae subsp. similipneumoniae

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences (CIFMS; No.2021-I2M-1-030).