Bacterial responses to antibiotics and their combinations

  • Mitosch K
  • Bollenbach T
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Antibiotics affect bacterial cell physiology at many levels. Rather than just compensating for the direct cellular defects caused by the drug, bacteria respond to antibiotics by changing their morphology, macromolecular composition, metabolism, gene expression and possibly even their mutation rate. Inevitably, these processes affect each other, resulting in a complex response with changes in the expression of numerous genes. Genome-wide approaches can thus help in gaining a comprehensive understanding of bacterial responses to antibiotics. In addition, a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches is needed for identifying general principles that underlie these responses. Here, we review recent progress in our understanding of bacterial responses to antibiotics and their combinations, focusing on effects at the levels of growth rate and gene expression. We concentrate on studies performed in controlled laboratory conditions, which combine promising experimental techniques with quantitative data analysis and mathematical modeling. While these basic research approaches are not immediately applicable in the clinic, uncovering the principles and mechanisms underlying bacterial responses to antibiotics may, in the long term, contribute to the development of new treatment strategies to cope with and prevent the rise of resistant pathogenic bacteria.

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