Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Dec 1;117(48):30699-30709. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1922187117. Epub 2020 Nov 16.
In recent years, the prevalence of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has risen substantially, and the study of CRE resistance mechanisms has become increasingly important for antibiotic development. Although much research has focused on genomic resistance factors, relatively few studies have examined CRE pathogens through changes in gene expression. In this study, we examined the gene expression profile of a CRE Escherichia coli clinical isolate that is sensitive to meropenem but resistant to ertapenem to explore transcriptomic contributions to resistance and to identify gene knockdown targets for carbapenem potentiation. We sequenced total and short RNA to analyze the gene expression response to ertapenem or meropenem treatment and found significant expression changes in genes related to motility, maltodextrin metabolism, the formate hydrogenlyase complex, and the general stress response. To validate these findings, we used our laboratory's Facile Accelerated Specific Therapeutic (FAST) platform to create antisense peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), gene-specific molecules designed to inhibit protein translation. PNAs were designed to inhibit the pathways identified in our transcriptomic analysis, and each PNA was then tested in combination with each carbapenem to assess its effect on the antibiotics' minimum inhibitory concentrations. We observed significant PNA-antibiotic interaction with five different PNAs across six combinations. Inhibition of the genes hycA, dsrB, and bolA potentiated carbapenem efficacy in CRE E. coli, whereas inhibition of the genes flhC and ygaC conferred added resistance. Our results identify resistance factors and demonstrate that transcriptomic analysis is a potent tool for designing antibiotic PNA.