Timing, variability and cross-protection in bacteria – Insights from dynamic gene expression responses to antibiotics

Mitosch, Karin (2017) Timing, variability and cross-protection in bacteria – Insights from dynamic gene expression responses to antibiotics. PhD thesis, IST Austria.

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Antibiotics have diverse effects on bacteria, including massive changes in bacterial gene expression. Whereas the gene expression changes under many antibiotics have been measured, the temporal organization of these responses and their dependence on the bacterial growth rate are unclear. As described in Chapter 1, we quantified the temporal gene expression changes in the bacterium Escherichia coli in response to the sudden exposure to antibiotics using a fluorescent reporter library and a robotic system. Our data show temporally structured gene expression responses, with response times for individual genes ranging from tens of minutes to several hours. We observed that many stress response genes were activated in response to antibiotics. As certain stress responses cross-protect bacteria from other stressors, we then asked whether cellular responses to antibiotics have a similar protective role in Chapter 2. Indeed, we found that the trimethoprim-induced acid stress response protects bacteria from subsequent acid stress. We combined microfluidics with time-lapse imaging to monitor survival, intracellular pH, and acid stress response in single cells. This approach revealed that the variable expression of the acid resistance operon gadBC strongly correlates with single-cell survival time. Cells with higher gadBC expression following trimethoprim maintain higher intracellular pH and survive the acid stress longer. Overall, we provide a way to identify single-cell cross-protection between antibiotics and environmental stressors from temporal gene expression data, and show how antibiotics can increase bacterial fitness in changing environments. While gene expression changes to antibiotics show a clear temporal structure at the population-level, it is unclear whether this clear temporal order is followed by every single cell. Using dual-reporter strains described in Chapter 3, we measured gene expression dynamics of promoter pairs in the same cells using microfluidics and microscopy. Chapter 4 shows that the oxidative stress response and the DNA stress response showed little timing variability and a clear temporal order under the antibiotic nitrofurantoin. In contrast, the acid stress response under trimethoprim ran independently from all other activated response programs including the DNA stress response, which showed particularly high timing variability in this stress condition. In summary, this approach provides insight into the temporal organization of gene expression programs at the single-cell level and suggests dependencies between response programs and the underlying variability-introducing mechanisms. Altogether, this work advances our understanding of the diverse effects that antibiotics have on bacteria. These results were obtained by taking into account gene expression dynamics, which allowed us to identify general principles, molecular mechanisms, and dependencies between genes. Our findings may have implications for infectious disease treatments, and microbial communities in the human body and in nature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
DOI: 10.15479/AT:ISTA:th_862
Subjects: 500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology > 571 Physiology
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology > 579 Microorganisms, fungi, algae
Research Group: Bollenbach Group
Depositing User: Karin Mitosch
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 13:26
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2017 07:27
URI: https://repository.ist.ac.at/id/eprint/862

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