Burkholderia ubonensis high-level tetracycline resistance is due to efflux pump synergy involving a novel teta(64) resistance determinant

Nawarat Somprasong, Carina M. Hall, Jessica R. Webb, Jason W. Sahl, David M. Wagner, Paul Keim, Bart J. Currie, Herbert P. Schweizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Burkholderia ubonensis, a nonpathogenic soil bacterium belonging to the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc), is highly resistant to some clinically significant antibiotics. The concern is that B. ubonensis may serve as a resistance reservoir for Bcc or B. pseudomallei complex (Bpc) organisms that are opportunistic human pathogens. Using a B. ubonensis strain highly resistant to tetracycline (MIC, $256mg/ml), we identified and characterized tetA(64) that encodes a novel tetracycline-specific efflux pump of the major facilitator superfamily. TetA(64) and associated TetR(64) regulator expression are induced by tetracyclines. Although TetA(64) is the primary tetracycline and doxycycline resistance determinant, maximum tetracycline and doxycycline resistance requires synergy between TetA(64) and the nonspecific AmrAB-OprA resistance nodulation cell division efflux pump. TetA(64) does not efflux minocycline, tigecycline, and eravacycline. Comprehensive screening of genome sequences showed that TetA(64) is unequally distributed in the Bcc and absent from the Bpc. It is present in some major cystic fibrosis pathogens, like Burkholderia cenocepacia, but absent from others like Burkholderia multivorans. The tetR(64)-tetA(64) genes are located in a region of chromosome 1 that is highly conserved in Burkholderia sp. Because there is no evidence for transposition, the tetR(64)-tetA(64) genes may have been acquired by homologous recombination after horizontal gene transfer. Although Burkholderia species contain a resident multicomponent efflux pump that allows them to respond to tetracyclines up to a certain concentration, the acquisition of the single-component TetA(64) by some species likely provides the synergy that these bacteria need to defend against high tetracycline concentrations in niche environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01767-20
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Burkholderia
  • Efflux pump
  • Resistance
  • Synergy
  • TetA(64)
  • Tetracycline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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