Publication date: Jul 17, 2023
Single-step selection of Mycobacterium abscessus mutants resistant to linezolid yielded high-level resistance at a low frequency that was associated with mutations in 23S rRNA or the ribosomal protein L3. Surprisingly, linezolid-resistant rRNA mutations conferred cross-resistance to several unrelated antibiotics. Low-level linezolid-resistant mutants were isolated at a higher frequency and were due to loss-of-function mutations in the transcriptional regulator MAB_4384, the repressor of the drug efflux pump MmpL5-MmpS5. IMPORTANCE The protein synthesis inhibitor linezolid is used for the treatment of lung disease caused by Mycobacterium abscessus. However, many strains of the bacterium show poor susceptibility to the antibiotic. For most clinical isolates, resistance is not due to mutations in the target of the drug, the ribosome. The mechanism responsible for non-target-related, indirect linezolid resistance is unknown. Here, we analyzed the development of linezolid resistance in the M. abscessus reference strain in vitro. We found, as expected, resistance mutations in the ribosome. In addition, we identified mutations in a system that involves a drug pump, suggesting drug efflux as a mechanism of resistance to linezolid. This finding may inform the analysis of clinical resistance to linezolid. Surprisingly, a subset of linezolid-resistant ribosome mutations conferred cross-resistance to several structurally and mechanistically unrelated drugs, uncovering a novel multidrug resistance mechanism.