Intoxication of antibiotic persisters by host RNS inactivates their efflux machinery during infection

PLoS Pathog. 2024 Feb 29;20(2):e1012033. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1012033. eCollection 2024 Feb.


The host environment is of critical importance for antibiotic efficacy. By impacting bacterial machineries, stresses encountered by pathogens during infection promote the formation of phenotypic variants that are transiently insensitive to the action of antibiotics. It is assumed that these recalcitrant bacteria-termed persisters-contribute to antibiotic treatment failure and relapsing infections. Recently, we demonstrated that host reactive nitrogen species (RNS) transiently protect persisters against the action of β-lactam antibiotics by delaying their regrowth within host cells. Here, we discovered that RNS intoxication of persisters also collaterally sensitizing them to fluoroquinolones during infection, explaining the higher efficiency of fluoroquinolones against intramacrophage Salmonella. By reducing bacterial respiration and the proton-motive force, RNS inactivate the AcrAB efflux machinery of persisters, facilitating the accumulation of fluoroquinolones intracellularly. Our work shows that target inactivity is not the sole reason for Salmonella persisters to withstand antibiotics during infection, with active efflux being a major contributor to survival. Thus, understanding how the host environment impacts persister physiology is critical to optimize antibiotics efficacy during infection.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport
  • Cleft Palate*
  • Exophthalmos*
  • Fluoroquinolones*
  • Microcephaly*
  • Monobactams
  • Osteosclerosis*
  • Proton-Motive Force


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Monobactams

Supplementary concepts

  • Raine syndrome

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.