Functional analysis of the RdxA and RdxB nitroreductases of Campylobacter jejuni reveals that mutations in rdxA confer metronidazole resistance

Deborah A. Ribardo, Lacey K. Bingham-Ramos, David R. Hendrixson

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9 Scopus citations


Campylobacter jejuni is a leading cause of gastroenteritis in humans and a commensal bacterium of the intestinal tracts of many wild and agriculturally significant animals. We identified and characterized a locus, which we annotated as rdxAB, encoding two nitroreductases. RdxA was found to be responsible for sensitivity to metronidazole (Mtz), a common therapeutic agent for another epsilonproteobacterium, Helicobacter pylori. Multiple, independently derived mutations in rdxA but not rdxB resulted in resistance to Mtz (Mtzr), suggesting that, unlike the case in H. pylori, Mtzr might not be a polygenic trait. Similarly, Mtzr C. jejuni was isolated after both in vitro and in vivo growth in the absence of selection that contained frameshift, point, insertion, or deletion mutations within rdxA, possibly revealing genetic variability of this trait in C. jejuni due to spontaneous DNA replication errors occurring during normal growth of the bacterium. Similar to previous findings with H. pylori RdxA, biochemical analysis of C. jejuni RdxA showed strong oxidase activity, with reduction of Mtz occurring only under anaerobic conditions. RdxB showed similar characteristics but at levels lower than those for RdxA. Genetic analysis confirmed that rdxA and rdxB are cotranscribed and induced during in vivo growth in the chick intestinal tract, but an absence of these genes did not strongly impair C. jejuni for commensal colonization. Further studies indicate that rdxA is a convenient locus for complementation of mutants in cis. Our work contributes to the growing knowledge of determinants contributing to susceptibility to Mtz (Mtzs) and supports previous observations of the fundamental differences in the activities of nitroreductases from epsilonproteobacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1890-1901
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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