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Bacteria have evolved to develop multiple strategies for antibiotic resistance by effectively reducing intracellular antibiotic concentrations or antibiotic binding affinities, but the role of cell morphology in antibiotic resistance remains poorly understood. By analyzing cell morphological data for different bacterial species under antibiotic stress, we find that bacteria increase or decrease the cell surface-to-volume ratio depending on the antibiotic target. Using quantitative modeling, we show that by reducing the surface-to-volume ratio, bacteria can effectively reduce the intracellular antibiotic concentration by decreasing antibiotic influx. The model further predicts that bacteria can increase the surface-to-volume ratio to induce the dilution of membrane-targeting antibiotics, in agreement with experimental data. Using a whole-cell model for the regulation of cell shape and growth by antibiotics, we predict shape transformations that bacteria can utilize to increase their fitness in the presence of antibiotics. We conclude by discussing additional pathways for antibiotic resistance that may act in synergy with shape-induced resistance.


Nikola Ojkic, Diana Serbanescu, Shiladitya Banerjee. Antibiotic Resistance via Bacterial Cell Shape-Shifting. mBio. 2022 Jun 28;13(3):e0065922

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PMID: 35616332

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