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Inhibition of the ATP synthase increases sensitivity of Escherichia coli carrying mcr-1 to polymyxin B


Bacterial infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) gram-negative strains carrying the mobile colistin resistance gene mcr-1 are serious threats to world public health due to the lack of effective treatments. Inhibition of the ATP synthase makes bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae more sensitive to polymyxin. This provides new strategies for treating infections caused by polymyxins-resistant bacteria carrying mcr-1. Six mcr-1-positive strains were isolated from clinical samples, and all were identified as Escherichia coli. Here we investigated several ATP synthase inhibitors, N,N’-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide (DCCD), resveratrol, and piceatannol, for their antibacterial effects against the mcr-1-positive strains combined with polymyxin B (POL). Checkerboard assay, time-kill assay, biofilm inhibition and eradication assay indicated the significant synergistic effect of ATP synthase inhibitors/POL combination in vitro. Meanwhile, mouse infection model experiment was also performed, showing a 5 log10 reduction of the pathogen after treatment with the resveratrol/POL combination. Moreover, adding adenosine disodium triphosphate (Na2ATP) could inhibit the antibacterial effect of the ATP synthase inhibitors/POL combination. In conclusion, our study confirmed that inhibition of ATP production could increase the susceptibility of bacteria carrying mcr-1 to polymyxins. This provides a new strategy against polymyxins-resistant bacteria infection.

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Data availability

The datasets used and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Most of the data is included in this published article.


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This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32200159, 82272352, 82130065).

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Authors and Affiliations



JY, ZF, and ZL designed the experiments. ZF, ZL, TF, YF, BD, XC, RZ, and HZ performed the experiments. The other authors analyzed the results. ZF and ZL wrote the manuscript. JY and ZF revised the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jing Yuan.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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We declared that all animal experiments complied with the US and Chinese national guidelines for the use of animals in research. The protocol was approved by the Capital Institute of Pediatrics (permission number DWLL2023011).

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Fan, Z., Li, Z., Fu, T. et al. Inhibition of the ATP synthase increases sensitivity of Escherichia coli carrying mcr-1 to polymyxin B. J Antibiot (2024).

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