Proteus mirabilis ARS68, which demonstrated a very high level of resistance to various aminoglycosides, was isolated in 2003 from an inpatient in Japan. The aminoglycoside resistance of this strain could not be transferred to recipient strains Escherichia coli CSH-2 and E. coli HB101 by a general conjugation experiment, but E. coli DHSα was successfully transformed by electroporation with the plasmid of the parent strain, ARS68, and acquired an unusually high degree of resistance against aminoglycosides. Cloning and sequencing analyses revealed that the presence of a novel 16S rRNA methylase gene, designated rmtC, was responsible for resistance in strain ARS68 and its transformant. The G+C content of rmtC was 41.1%, and the deduced amino acid sequences of the newly identified 16S rRNA methylase, RmtC, shared a relatively low level of identity (£29%) to other plasmid-mediated 16S rRNA methylases, RmtA, RmtB, and ArmA, which have also been identified in pathogenic gram-negative bacilli. Also, RmtC shared a low level of identity (≤28%) with the other 16S rRNA methylases found in aminoglycoside-producing actinomycetes. The purified histidine-tagged RmtC clearly showed niethyltransferase activity against E. coli 16S rRNA in vitro. rmtC was located downstream of an ISEcp1-like element containing trip A. Several plasmid-mediated 16S rRNA methylases have been identified in pathogenic gram-negative bacilli belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae, and some of them are dispersing worldwide. The acceleration of aminoglycoside resistance among gram-negative bacilli by producing plasmid-mediated 16S rRNA methylases, such as RmtC, RmtB, and RmtA, may indeed become an actual clinical hazard in the near future.
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