Pan-transcriptomic analysis identified common differentially expressed genes of Acinetobacter baumannii in response to polymyxin treatments†
Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii is a top-priority Gram-negative pathogen and polymyxins are a last-line therapeutic option. Previous systems pharmacological studies examining polymyxin killing and resistance usually focused on individual strains, and the derived knowledge could be limited by strain-specific genomic context. In this study, we examined the gene expression of five A. baumannii strains (34654, 1207552, 1428368, 1457504 and ATCC 19606) to determine the common differentially expressed genes in response to polymyxin treatments. A pan-genome containing 6061 genes was identified for 89 A. baumannii genomes from RefSeq database which included the five strains examined in this study; 2822 of the 6061 genes constituted the core genome. After 2 mg L−1 or 0.75 × MIC polymyxin treatments for 15 min, 41 genes were commonly up-regulated, including those involved in membrane biogenesis and homeostasis, lipoprotein and phospholipid trafficking, efflux pump and poly-N-acetylglucosamine biosynthesis; six genes were commonly down-regulated, three of which were related to fatty acid biosynthesis. Additionally, comparison of the gene expression at 15 and 60 min in ATCC 19606 revealed that polymyxin treatment resulted in a rapid change in amino acid metabolism at 15 min and perturbations on envelope biogenesis at both time points. This is the first pan-transcriptomic study for polymyxin-treated A. baumannii and our results identified that the remodelled outer membrane, up-regulated efflux pumps and down-regulated fatty acid biosynthesis might be essential for early responses to polymyxins in A. baumannii. Our findings provide important mechanistic insights into bacterial responses to polymyxin killing and may facilitate the optimisation of polymyxin therapy against this problematic ‘superbug’.