High Levels of Colicin Resistance in Escherichia coli

Authors

Michael Feldgarden and Riley MA

Abstract

Colicins are plasmid-encoded antibiotics that are produced by and kill Escherichia coli and other related species. The frequency of colicinogeny is high, on average 30% of E. coli isolates produce colicins. Initial observations from one collection of 72 strains of E. coli (the ECOR collection) suggest that resistance to colicin killing is also ubiquitous, with over 70% of strains resistant to one or more colicins. To determine whether resistance is a common trait in E. coli, three additional strain collections were surveyed. In each of these collections levels of colicin production were high (from 15 to 50% of the strains produce colicins). Levels of colicin resistance were even higher, with most strains resistant to over 10 colicins. A survey of 137 non-E. coli isolates revealed even higher levels of resistance. We discuss a mechanism (pleiotropy) that could result in the co-occurrence of such high levels of colicin production and colicin resistance.

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