Fitness costs in antibiotic resistance and metabolic engineering
MetadataShow full item record
Elevated expression of proteins, such as those involved in native antibiotic resistance pathways or introduced to enable biosynthesis of a metabolic engineering target, frequently leads to increased fitness cost. This can result in reduced growth and places selective pressure on cells. In conditions where there is diversity in expression within the population, this can result in cells with higher fitness out-competing their low-fitness counterparts. In the antibiotic resistance context, differential fitness costs caused by antibiotic resistance machinery can be exploited to select against resistant bacteria. However, in biotechnology applications, introducing burdensome synthetic constructs often requires additional engineering to increase genetic stability and maintain production. In this thesis, we investigate the origin of fitness costs and strategies for either exploiting or reducing it, focusing on specific examples related to antibiotic resistance and metabolic engineering. In the resistance work, we study the multiple antibiotic resistance activator MarA and related proteins in Escherichia coli. We quantify the differential fitness cost impacts of salicylate on E. coli antibiotic resistance variants. We demonstrate that salicylate, the natural inducer of MarA, imposes a higher fitness cost on resistant cells compared to the susceptible counterparts, making it possible to bias bacterial population membership towards those cells that are susceptible. In a second study, we focus on the role of salicylate in antibiotic tolerant persister cell formation, finding that salicylate induces reactive oxygen species and consequently persistence. In the metabolic engineering parts of the thesis we first review the mechanisms of fitness cost and existing strategies to ameliorate cost and cell-to-cell variation. Next, we present a technique for reducing fitness cost while maintaining production that takes advantage of transcription factor decoy sites to regulate biosynthesis in E. coli. Using arginine production as a model system, the transcription factor decoy is able to increase production by 16-fold without detectable growth differences. Together, the thesis provides an understanding of the origins and mechanisms of fitness cost in the context of antibiotic resistance and metabolic engineering. It also introduces strategies to exploit fitness costs to select against resistant bacteria and engineering strategies to ameliorate cost while increasing production and genetic stability.