Sequence-Specific Targeting of Bacterial Resistance Genes Increases Antibiotic Efficacy

Dilay Hazal Ayhan, Yusuf Talha Tamer, Mohammed Akbar, Stacey M. Bailey, Michael Wong, Seth M. Daly, David E. Greenberg, Erdal Toprak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The lack of effective and well-tolerated therapies against antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global public health problem leading to prolonged treatment and increased mortality. To improve the efficacy of existing antibiotic compounds, we introduce a new method for strategically inducing antibiotic hypersensitivity in pathogenic bacteria. Following the systematic verification that the AcrAB-TolC efflux system is one of the major determinants of the intrinsic antibiotic resistance levels in Escherichia coli, we have developed a short antisense oligomer designed to inhibit the expression of acrA and increase antibiotic susceptibility in E. coli. By employing this strategy, we can inhibit E. coli growth using 2- to 40-fold lower antibiotic doses, depending on the antibiotic compound utilized. The sensitizing effect of the antisense oligomer is highly specific to the targeted gene’s sequence, which is conserved in several bacterial genera, and the oligomer does not have any detectable toxicity against human cells. Finally, we demonstrate that antisense oligomers improve the efficacy of antibiotic combinations, allowing the combined use of even antagonistic antibiotic pairs that are typically not favored due to their reduced activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002552
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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