Genome-wide analysis in Escherichia coli unravels a high level of genetic homoplasy associated with cefotaxime resistance

Jordy P.M. Coolen*, Evert P.M. den Drijver, Jaco J. Verweij, Jodie A. Schildkraut, Kornelia Neveling, Willem J.G. Melchers, Eva Kolwijck, Heiman F.L. Wertheim, Jan A.J.W. Kluytmans, Martijn A. Huynen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cefotaxime (CTX) is a third-generation cephalosporin (3GC) commonly used to treat infections caused by Escherichia coli. Two genetic mechanisms have been associated with 3GC resistance in E. coli. The first is the conjugative transfer of a plasmid harbouring antibiotic-resistance genes. The second is the introduction of mutations in the promoter region of the ampC β-lactamase gene that cause chromosome-encoded β-lactamase hyperproduction. A wide variety of promoter mutations related to AmpC hyperproduction have been described. However, their link to CTX resistance has not been reported. We recultured 172 cefoxitin-resistant E. coli isolates with known CTX minimum inhibitory concentrations and performed genome-wide analysis of homoplastic mutations associated with CTX resistance by comparing Illumina whole-genome sequencing data of all isolates to a PacBio sequenced reference chromosome. We mapped the mutations on the reference chromosome and determined their occurrence in the phylogeny, revealing extreme homoplasy at the -42 position of the ampC promoter. The 24 occurrences of a T at the -42 position rather than the wild-type C, resulted from 18 independent C>T mutations in five phylogroups. The -42 C>T mutation was only observed in E. coli lacking a plasmid-encoded ampC gene. The association of the -42 C>T mutation with CTX resistance was confirmed to be significant (false discovery rate <0.05). To conclude, genome-wide analysis of homoplasy in combination with CTX resistance identifies the -42 C>T mutation of the ampC promotor as significantly associated with CTX resistance and underlines the role of recurrent mutations in the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number000556
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalMicrobial genomics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • AmpC
  • Bioinformatics
  • Escherichia coli
  • Genomics
  • Whole-genome sequencing


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