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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1996 Apr;40(4):829-34.

Penicillin-binding proteins 2b and 2x of Streptococcus pneumoniae are primary resistance determinants for different classes of beta-lactam antibiotics.

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  • 1Max-Planck Institut für Molekulare Genetik, Berlin, Germany.


High-level resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics in Streptococcus pneumoniae is mediated by successive alterations in essential penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs). In the present work, single amino acid changes in S. pneumoniae PBP 2x and PBP 2b that result in reduced affinity for the antibiotic and that confer first-level beta-lactam resistance are defined. Point mutations in the PBP genes were generated by PCR-derived mutagenesis. Those conferring maximal resistance to either cefotaxime (pbp2x) or piperacillin (pbp2b) were obtained after transformation of the susceptible laboratory strain R6 with the PCR-amplified PBP genes and selection on agar with various concentrations of the antibiotic. In the case of PBP 2x, transformants for which the cefotaxime MIC was 0.16 microgram/ml contained the substitution of a Thr for an Ala at position 550 (Thr550-->Ala), close to the PBP homology box Lys547SerGly, a mutation frequently observed in laboratory mutants and in a high-level cefotaxime-resistant clinical isolate as well. After further selection, transformants resisting 0.3 microgram of cefotaxime per ml were obtained; they contained the substitution Gly550 as the result of two mutations in the same codon. In PBP 2b, Thr446-->Ala, adjacent to another homology box Ser443SerAsn, was the mutation selected with piperacillin. This substitution has been described in all clinical isolates with a low-affinity PBP 2b but was distinct from point mutations found in laboratory mutants. Both pbp2b with the single mutation and a mosaic pbp2b of a clinical isolate conferred a twofold increase in piperacillin resistance. Attempts to select PBP 2b variants at higher piperacillin concentrations were unsuccessful. The mutated PBP 2b also markedly reduced the lytic response to piperacillin, suggesting that such a mutation is an important step in resistance development in clinical isolates.

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