Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kalai Mathee

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Alejandro Barbieri

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Ruben L. Gonzalez

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

John Makemson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Lynn L. Silver

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Pseudomonas aeruginosa, beta-lactamase, PoxB

Date of Defense



Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a dreaded opportunistic pathogen that causes severe and often intractable infections in immunocompromised and critically ill patients. This bacterium is also the primary cause of fatal lung infections in patients with cystic fibrosis and a leading nosocomial pathogen responsible for nearly 10% of all hospital-acquired infections. P. aeruginosa is intrinsically recalcitrant to most classes of antibiotics and has the ability to acquire additional resistance during treatment. In particular, resistance to the widely used β-lactam antibiotics is frequently mediated by the expression of AmpC, a chromosomally encoded β-lactamase that is ubiquitously found in P. aeruginosa strains. This dissertation delved into the role of a recently reported chromosomal β-lactamase in P. aeruginosa called PoxB. To date, no detailed studies have addressed the regulation of poxB expression and its contribution to β-lactam resistance in P. aeruginosa. In an effort to better understand the role of this β-lactamase, poxB was deleted from the chromosome and expressed in trans from an IPTG-inducible promoter. The loss of poxB did not affect susceptibility. However, expression in trans in the absence of ampC rendered strains more resistant to the carbapenem β-lactams. The carbapenem-hydrolyzing phenotype was enhanced, reaching intermediate and resistant clinical breakpoints, in the absence of the carbapenem-specific outer membrane porin OprD. As observed for most class D β-lactamases, PoxB was only weakly inhibited by the currently available β-lactamase inhibitors. Moreover, poxB was shown to form an operon with the upstream located poxA, whose expression in trans decreased pox promoter (Ppox) activity suggesting autoregulation. The transcriptional regulator AmpR negatively controlled Ppox activity, however no direct interaction could be demonstrated. A mariner transposon library identified genes involved in the transport of polyamines as potential regulators of pox expression. Unexpectedly, polyamines themselves were able induce resistance to carbapenems. In summary, P. aeruginosa carries a chromosomal-encoded β-lactamase PoxB that can provide resistance against the clinically relevant carbapenems despite its narrow spectrum of hydrolysis and whose activity in vivo may be regulated by polyamines.





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