Trade-off between antibiotic resistance and biological fitness in Acinetobacter sp. strain DR1


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Rifampicin, a bactericidal antibiotic drug, is routinely used to make an environmental recipient selective in laboratory-conjugation experiments. We noticed, inadvertently, that the rifampicin-resistant Acinetobacter sp. strain DR1, a recently discovered hexadecane-degrading environmental isolate, exhibited a substantial loss of quorum sensing signalling. The domesticated ampicillin-resistant strain, DR1, evidenced more dramatic phenotypic changes than were observed in the rifampicin-resistant cells: a complete loss of quorum sensing, a loss in swimming and swarming motilities, poor fimbrial expression, increased rigidity in membrane fatty acid composition and reduced hexadecane degradation capability. Interestingly, the motility of strain DR1 grown adjacent to a streptomycin-producing Streptomyces griceus was permanently abrogated, where this change was heritable and other phenotypic changes could not be detected. In this study, we have reported for the first time that the in situ acquisition of antibiotic resistance may reduce biological fitness, including losses in the production of quorum sensing signals, motility and substrate utilization, and each antibiotic is associated with different degrees of phenotypic and genetic alterations. Our data also suggested that the domestication of environmental isolates should be approached with caution, as there are phenotypic variations in antibiotic-resistant cells that might not be noticeable unless all possible phenotypic assays are conducted.