The expression of antibiotic resistance methyltransferase correlates with mRNA stability independently of ribosome stalling

Ekaterina Dzyubak, Mee-Ngan Frances Yap*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Members of the Erm methyltransferase family modify 23S rRNA of the bacterial ribosome and render cross-resistance to macrolides and multiple distantly related antibiotics. Previous studies have shown that the expression of erm is activated when a macrolide-bound ribosome stalls the translation of the leader peptide preceding the cotranscribed erm. Ribosome stalling is thought to destabilize the inhibitory stem-loop mRNA structure and exposes the erm Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence for translational initiation. Paradoxically, mutations that abolish ribosome stalling are routinely found in hyper-resistant clinical isolates; however, the significance of the stalling-dead leader sequence is largely unknown. Here, we show that nonsense mutations in the Staphylococcus aureus ErmB leader peptide (ErmBL) lead to high basal and induced expression of downstream ErmB in the absence or presence of macrolide concomitantly with elevated ribosome methylation and resistance. The overexpression of ErmB is associated with the reduced turnover of the ermBL-ermB transcript, and the macrolide appears to mitigate mRNA cleavage at a site immediately downstream of the ermBL SD sequence. The stabilizing effect of antibiotics on mRNA is not limited to ermBL-ermB; cationic antibiotics representing a ribosome-stalling inducer and a noninducer increase the half-life of specific transcripts. These data unveil a new layer of ermB regulation and imply that ErmBL translation or ribosome stalling serves as a "tuner" to suppress aberrant production of ErmB because methylated ribosome may impose a fitness cost on the bacterium as a result of misregulated translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7178-7188
Number of pages11
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology


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