Can Bacteria Evolve Resistance to Quorum Sensing Disruption?

Traditional treatment of bacterial infections relies heavily on the use of antibacterial compounds that either kill bacteria (bactericidal) or inhibit their growth (bacteriostatic). Typically, the targets for the main conventional antibiotics are essential cellular processes such as bacterial cell wall biosynthesis, bacterial protein synthesis, and bacterial DNA replication and repair. However, resistance to these drugs arises and spreads very rapidly, even to such an extent that bacteria have been identified that are simultaneously resistant to all available antibiotics. The increasing occurrence of resistant bacteria gradually renders antibiotics ineffective in treating infections and has enormous human and economic consequences worldwide. As a result, the identification of novel drug targets and the development of novel therapeutics constitute an important area of current scientific research. An alternative to killing or inhibiting growth of pathogenic bacteria is the specific attenuation of bacterial virulence, which can be attained by targeting key regulatory systems that mediate the expression of virulence factors. One of the target regulatory systems is quorum sensing (QS), or bacterial cell-to-cell communication. QS is a mechanism of gene regulation in which bacteria coordinate the expression of certain genes in response to the presence or absence of small signal molecules. As the importance of QS in virulence development of pathogenic bacteria became clear, about a decade ago, QS disruption was suggested as a new anti-infective strategy.

Quorum sensing

Although at this moment it is difficult to accurately estimate the risk of resistance development, this paper argues that scientists need to pay attention to the possibility that it will evolve. Once we have better knowledge of the risk of resistance development to QS disruption, it might be possible to direct further research on QS inhibition preferentially towards strategies that include a lower risk of resistance development.

Can Bacteria Evolve Resistance to Quorum Sensing Disruption? 2010 PLoS Pathog 6(7): e1000989. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000989

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