Burkholderia cenocepacia, an opportunistic bacterium causing chronic respiratory infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, produces the bacterial lipocalin protein BcnA upon exposure to sublethal concentrations of bactericidal antibiotics. BcnA captures antibiotics outside bacterial cells, providing a novel extracellular mechanism of antimicrobial resistance. Sublethal concentrations of bactericidal antibiotics (e.g. polymyxin B, norfloxacin) and superoxide ion stress inducers (e.g. paraquat) stimulate transcription of bcnA, suggesting BcnA may also play a role in oxidative stress responses. bcnA gene homologues can be genetically linked to an upstream gene encoding a predicted membrane cytochrome b-561 protein, which we have named bcoA (bcnA cytochrome oxidase-associated gene). RT-PCR showed that both bcnA and bcoA are co-transcribed in B. cenocepacia. We hypothesize that BcnA and BcoA may be components of an unrecognized pathway to protect B. cenocepacia and other bacteria from membrane lipid-derived peroxidation damage. Here, we show that bcnA and bcoA deletion mutants display enhanced membrane lipid peroxidation and fail to survive under conditions that stimulate peroxidative stress (e.g. cold stress and salt stress). Compared to wild type, the levels of the lipid peroxidation biomarker malondialdehyde are also increased in the mutants upon exposure to near-lethal concentrations of polymyxin B and norfloxacin. No differences in bacterial survival were detected in parental and mutants under anaerobiosis. These findings indicate that BcnA and BcoA participate in a previously unrecognised peroxidation detoxification pathway that likely protects the outer membrane lipid bilayer under extreme stress conditions such as antibiotic killing.

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