Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
We have isolated and characterized in vitro mutants of the Lyme disease agent Borrelia burgdorferi that are resistant to spectinomycin, kanamycin, gentamicin, or streptomycin, antibiotics that target the small subunit of the ribosome. 16S rRNA mutations A1185G and C1186U, homologous to Escherichia coli nucleotides A1191 and C1192, conferred > 2,200-fold and 1,300-fold resistance to spectinomycin, respectively. A 16S rRNA A1402G mutation, homologous to E. coli A1408, conferred > 90-fold resistance to kanamycin and > 240-fold resistance to gentamicin. Two mutations were identified in the gene for ribosomal protein S12, at a site homologous to E. coli residue Lys-87, in mutants selected in streptomycin. Substitutions at codon 88, K88R and K88E, conferred 7-fold resistance and 10-fold resistance, respectively, to streptomycin on B. burgdorferi. The 16S rRNA A1185G and C1186U mutations, associated with spectinomycin resistance, appeared in a population of B. burgdorferi parental strain B31 at a high frequency of 6 X 10(-6). These spectinomycin-resistant mutants successfully competed with the wild-type strain during 100 generations of coculture in vitro. The aminoglycoside-resistant mutants appeared at a frequency of 3 X 10(-9) to 1 X 10(-7) in a population and were unable to compete with wild-type strain B31 after 100 generations. This is the first description of mutations in the B. burgdorferi ribosome that confer resistance to antibiotics. These results have implications for the evolution of antibiotic resistance, because the 16S rRNA mutations conferring spectinomycin resistance have no significant fitness cost in vitro, and for the development of new selectable markers.