Growth-dependent bacterial susceptibility to ribosome-targeting antibiotics

Philip Greulich, Matthew Scott, Martin R. Evans, Rosalind J. Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Bacterial growth environment strongly influences the efficacy of antibiotic treatment, with slow growth often being associated with decreased susceptibility. Yet in many cases, the connection between antibiotic susceptibility and pathogen physiology remains unclear. We show that for ribosome-targeting antibiotics acting on Escherichia coli, a complex interplay exists between physiology and antibiotic action; for some antibiotics within this class, faster growth indeed increases susceptibility, but for other antibiotics, the opposite is true. Remarkably, these observations can be explained by a simple mathematical model that combines drug transport and binding with physiological constraints. Our model reveals that growth-dependent susceptibility is controlled by a single parameter characterizing the reversibility' of ribosome-targeting antibiotic transport and binding. This parameter provides a spectrum classification of antibiotic growth-dependent efficacy that appears to correspond at its extremes to existing binary classification schemes. In these limits, the model predicts universal, parameter-free limiting forms for growth inhibition curves. The model also leads to non-trivial predictions for the drug susceptibility of a translation mutant strain of E. coli, which we verify experimentally. Drug action and bacterial metabolism are mechanistically complex; nevertheless, this study illustrates how coarse-grained models can be used to integrate pathogen physiology into drug design and treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number796
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • antibiotic pharmacodynamics
  • bacterial physiology
  • phenomenological growth laws
  • ribosome binding antibiotics


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