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Contingency nature of Helicobacter bizzozeronii oxygen-insensitive NAD(P)H-nitroreductase (HBZC1_00960) and its role in metronidazole resistance

Pradeep Kumar Kondadi, Claudia Pacini, Joana Revez, Marja-Liisa Hänninen and Mirko Rossi*

Author Affiliations

Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 66, Agnes Sjöbergin katu 2, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland

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Veterinary Research 2013, 44:56  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-44-56

Published: 16 July 2013


Genomic analysis of a metronidazole resistant H. bizzozeronii strain revealed a frame length extension of the oxygen-insensitive NAD(P)H-nitroreductase HBZC1_00960 (RdxA), associated with the disruption of the C-terminal cysteine-containing conserved region (IACLXALGK). This was the result of the extension (from C8 to C9) of a simple sequence cytosine repeat (SSCR) located in the 3’ of the gene. A 3' SSCR is also present in the rdxA homolog of H. heilmannii sensu stricto, but not in H. pylori. We showed that in the majority of in vitro spontaneous H. bizzozeronii metronidazole resistant mutants, the extension of the 3′ SSCR of rdxA was the only mutation observed. In addition, we observed that H. bizzozeronii ΔrdxA mutant strain showed the same MIC value of metronidazole observed in the spontaneous mutants. These data indicate that loss of function mutations in rdxA and in particular the disruption of the conserved region IACLXALGK is associated with reduced susceptibility to metronidazole in H. bizzozeronii. Slipped-strand mispairing of the SSCR located in the 3′ of the H. bizzozeronii rdxA appears to be the main mechanism. We also observed that H. bizzozeronii acquires resistance to metronidazole at high mutation rate, and that serial passages in vitro without selection induced an increased level of susceptibility. In conclusion, contrary to what was previously described in H. pylori, the H. bizzozeronii rdxA appears to be a contingency gene which undergoes phase variation. The contingency nature of rdxA should be carefully considered when metronidazole is used in the treatment of H. heilmannii-associated gastritis.