The role of ribosomal RNAs in macrolide resistance

Mol Microbiol. 1997 Nov;26(3):469-80. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1997.5811946.x.


Macrolides are bacteriostatic antibiotics which interfere with the peptidyltransfer function of the ribosome. We have investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying macrolide resistance in Mycobacterium smegmatis, an eubacterium carrying two rRNA operons. Surprisingly, drug resistance was associated not with alterations in ribosomal proteins, but with a single point mutation in the peptidyltransferase region of one of the two 23S RNA genes, i.e. A2058-->G or A2059-->G. This mutation resulted in a heterozygous organism with a mutated and a wild-type rRNA operon respectively. Reverse transcriptase sequencing indicated the expression of both wild-type and mutated rRNAs. The mutated operon was introduced into genetically engineered rrn- strains of M. smegmatis carrying a single functional rRNA operon and into parental M. smegmatis with two chromosomal rRNA operons, using gene transfer as well as gene replacement techniques. The results obtained demonstrate the dominant nature of resistance. As exemplified in our results on macrolide resistance, a complete set of genetic tools is now available, which allows questions of dominance vs. recessivity and gene dosage effects in eubacterial ribosomal nucleic acids to be addressed experimentally in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial
  • Clarithromycin / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Mycobacterium / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium / genetics*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / physiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S / physiology*
  • rRNA Operon


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S
  • Clarithromycin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/Y13226
  • GENBANK/Y13227
  • GENBANK/Y13228