For almost half of a century, we have known that aminoglycoside antibiotics corrupt ribosomes, causing translational misreading, yet it remains unclear whether or not misreading triggers protein misfolding, and possible effects of chaperone action on drug susceptibilities are poorly understood. Here, we show that aminoglycosides cause cytosolic protein misfolding and that chaperonin GroEL/GroES overexpression counters this defect. During aminoglycoside exposure to exponential cultures, chaperonin overexpression protected the bacterial membrane potential, rescued cell growth, and facilitated survival, whereas inhibition of chaperonin expression sensitized bacteria. Overexpression of the DnaK/DnaJ/GrpE chaperone system similarly facilitated survival but did not promote growth of aminoglycoside-treated bacteria. Inhibition of chaperonin expression sensitized bacteria to aminoglycosides as measured by reduced minimum inhibitory concentrations, whereas GroEL/GroES overexpression did not increase minimum inhibitory concentrations. Our observations establish misfolding of cytosolic proteins as an effect of aminoglycoside action and reveal that chaperones, chaperonins in particular, help bacteria cope during early exposure to these drugs.
Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2013, Vol 288, Issue 15, p. 10483-9