Metabolic regulation of antibiotic resistance


  • Editor: Fernando Baquero

Correspondence: José L. Martínez, Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Darwin 3, Cantoblanco, 28049-Madrid, Spain. Tel.: +34 91 585 4542; fax: +34 91 585 4506; e-mail:


It is generally assumed that antibiotics and resistance determinants are the task forces of a biological warfare in which each resistance determinant counteracts the activity of a specific antibiotic. According to this view, antibiotic resistance might be considered as a specific response to an injury, not necessarily linked to bacterial metabolism, except for the burden that the acquisition of resistance might impose on the bacteria (fitness costs). Nevertheless, it is known that changes in bacterial metabolism, such as those associated with dormancy or biofilm formation, modulate bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics (phenotypic resistance), indicating that there exists a linkage between bacterial metabolism and antibiotic resistance. The analyses of the intrinsic resistomes of bacterial pathogens also demonstrate that the building up of intrinsic resistance requires the concerted action of many elements, several of which play a relevant role in the bacterial metabolism. In this article, we will review the current knowledge on the linkage between bacterial metabolism and antibiotic resistance and will discuss the role of global metabolic regulators such as Crc in bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics. Given that growing into the human host requires a metabolic adaptation, we will discuss whether this adaptation might trigger resistance even in the absence of selective pressure by antibiotics.