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Infect Immun. 2002 Oct;70(10):5647-50.

Virulence effect of Enterococcus faecalis protease genes and the quorum-sensing locus fsr in Caenorhabditis elegans and mice.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The expression of two Enterococcus faecalis extracellular virulence-related proteins, gelatinase (GelE) and serine protease (SprE), has been shown to be positively regulated by the fsr quorum-sensing system. We recently developed a novel system for studying E. faecalis pathogenicity that involves killing of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and showed that an E. faecalis fsrB mutant (strain TX5266) exhibited attenuated killing. We explore here the role of the fsr/gelE-sprE locus in pathogenicity by comparing results obtained in the nematode system with a mouse peritonitis model of E. faecalis infection. Insertion mutants of fsrA (TX5240) and fsrC (TX5242), like fsrB (TX5266), were attenuated in their ability to kill C. elegans. A deletion mutant of gelE (TX5264) and an insertion mutant of sprE (TX5243) were also attenuated in C. elegans killing, although to a lesser extent than the fsr mutants. Complementation of fsrB (TX5266) with a 6-kb fragment containing the entire fsr locus restored virulence in both the nematode and the mouse peritonitis models. The fsr mutants were not impaired in their ability to colonize the nematode intestine. These data show that extracellular proteases and the quorum-sensing fsr system are important for E. faecalis virulence in two highly divergent hosts: nematodes and mice.

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