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J Bacteriol. 1996 Sep; 178(18): 5464–5471.
PMCID: PMC178368

Role of mecA transcriptional regulation in the phenotypic expression of methicillin resistance in Staphylococcus aureus.


The gene required for methicillin resistance in staphylococci, mecA, encodes the low-affinity penicillin-binding protein 2a (PBP2a). Transcriptional regulation of mecA is accomplished in some isolates by mecR1 and mecI, cotranscribed chromosomal genes that encode a putative signal transducer and a transcriptional repressor, respectively. Two Staphylococcus aureus strains that have identical mecR1-mecI nucleotide sequences, BMS1 and N315P, both exhibit low-level, heterotypic expression of methicillin resistance and contain no beta-lactamase coregulatory sequences. mecR1-mecI was amplified from BMS1 by PCR and was shown to be functional on a high-copy-number plasmid when introduced into an S. aureus strain with a deleted mecR1-mecI locus. Cloned mecR1-mecI repressed phenotypic expression of methicillin resistance, mecA transcription and PBP2a production and mediated PBP2a induction in response to certain beta-lactam antibiotics. However, mecR1-mecI had different regulatory activities in its native chromosomal location in N315P compared with those in BMS1. Uninduced mecA transcription was markedly repressed in N315P, and mecI inactivation increased mecA transcription and PBP2a production 5- and 40-fold, respectively. Furthermore, the N315P phenotype changed from low-level, heterotypic resistance with intact mecI to high-level, homotypic resistance in strains with disrupted mecI. In contrast, uninduced BMS1 produced abundant mecA transcript and PBP2a, while the disruption of mecI had no effect on phenotype and little effect on mecA transcription or PBP2a production. Thus, mecI-mediated repression of mecA appears to be dysfunctional in BMS1 because of the presence or absence of additional regulatory cofactors. Furthermore, heterotypic resistance expression in this strain is independent of mecA transcriptional regulation.

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Selected References

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