The inducible Mar phenotype of Escherichia coli
is associated with increased tolerance to multiple hydrophobic antibiotics as well as some highly hydrophobic organic solvents such as cyclohexane, mediated mainly through the AcrAB/TolC efflux system. The influence of water miscible alcohols ethanol and 1-propanol on a Mar constitutive mutant and a mar
deletion mutant of E. coli
K-12, as well as the corresponding strains carrying the additional acrAB
deletion, was investigated. In contrast to hydrophobic solvents, all strains were killed in exponential phase by 1-propanol and ethanol at rates comparable to the parent strain. Thus, the Mar phenotype does not protect E. coli
from killing by these more polar solvents. Surprisingly, AcrAB does not contribute to an increased alcohol tolerance. In addition, sodium salicylate, at concentrations known to induce the mar
operon, was unable to increase 1-propanol or ethanol tolerance. Rather, the toxicity of both solvents was increased in the presence of sodium salicylate. Collectively, the results imply that the resilience of E. coli
to water miscible alcohols, in contrast to more hydrophobic solvents, does not depend upon the AcrAB/TolC efflux system, and suggests a lower limit for substrate molecular size and functionality. Implications for the application of microbiological systems in environments containing high contents of water miscible organic solvents, e.g.,phage display screening, are discussed.