Mechanisms of antibiotic action shape the fitness landscapes of resistance mutations

Colin Hemez, Fabrizio Clarelli, Adam C. Palmer, Christina Bleis, Sören Abel, Leonid Chindelevitch, Theodore Cohen, Pia Abel zur Wiesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Antibiotic-resistant pathogens are a major public health threat. A deeper understanding of how an antibiotic's mechanism of action influences the emergence of resistance would aid in the design of new drugs and help to preserve the effectiveness of existing ones. To this end, we developed a model that links bacterial population dynamics with antibiotic-target binding kinetics. Our approach allows us to derive mechanistic insights on drug activity from population-scale experimental data and to quantify the interplay between drug mechanism and resistance selection. We find that both bacteriostatic and bactericidal agents can be equally effective at suppressing the selection of resistant mutants, but that key determinants of resistance selection are the relationships between the number of drug-inactivated targets within a cell and the rates of cellular growth and death. We also show that heterogeneous drug-target binding within a population enables resistant bacteria to evolve fitness-improving secondary mutations even when drug doses remain above the resistant strain's minimum inhibitory concentration. Our work suggests that antibiotic doses beyond this “secondary mutation selection window” could safeguard against the emergence of high-fitness resistant strains during treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4688-4703
Number of pages16
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications


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