Triclosan Tolerance Is Driven by a Conserved Mechanism in Diverse Pseudomonas Species

Alexander G. McFarland, Hanna K. Bertucci, Erica Littman, Jiaxian Shen, Curtis Huttenhower, Erica M. Hartmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Perturbation of natural microbial communities by antimicrobials, such as triclosan, can result in selection for antibiotic tolerance, which is of particular concern when pathogens are present. Members of the genus Pseudomonas are found in many natural microbial communities and frequently demonstrate increased abundance following triclosan exposure. The pathogen and well-studied model organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits high triclosan tolerance; however, it is unknown if all Pseudomonas species share this trait or if there are susceptible strains. We characterized the triclosan tolerance phenotypes of diverse Pseudomonas isolates obtained from triclosan-exposed built environments and identified both tolerant and sensitive strains. High tolerance is associated with carriage of the enoyl-acyl carrier reductase (ENR) isozyme gene fabV, compared to the lesser protective effects of efflux or presence of ENRs. Given its unique importance, we examined fabV distribution throughout Pseudomonas species using large-scale phylogenomic analyses. We find fabV presence or absence is largely invariant at the species level but demonstrates multiple gain and loss events in its evolutionary history. We further provide evidence of its presence on mobile genetic elements. Our results demonstrate the surprising variability in triclosan tolerance in Pseudomonas and confirm fabV to be a useful indicator for high triclosan tolerance in Pseudomonas. These findings provide a framework for better monitoring of Pseudomonas in triclosan-exposed environments and interpreting effects on species and gene composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • antimicrobials
  • genomics
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • microbiology
  • phylogenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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