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Plasmid. 2002 Nov;48(3):193-201.

Enterococcal plasmid transfer: sex pheromones, transfer origins, relaxases, and the Staphylococcus aureus issue.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1078, USA.


Certain conjugative plasmids in Enterococcus faecalis encode a mating response to peptide sex pheromones encoded on the chromosome of potential recipient (plasmid-free) strains. The pheromone precursors correspond to the precursors of surface lipoproteins with the mature peptides coming from the last 7-8 residues of the related signal sequences. Processing that gives rise to the pAD1-related peptide involves a chromosome-encoded metalloprotease (Eep) that is believed to operate within the cytoplasmic membrane. Mutations in the determinants for cAD1 and cAM373, cad and camE, respectively, do not affect cell viability; and when the related plasmid is present, the pheromone response is normal. A cAM373-like activity is produce by Staphylococcus aureus, but the corresponding lipoprotein determinant (camS) is unrelated to the enterococcal determinant (camE). pAD1 has two origins of transfer, oriT1 and oriT2 and encodes a relaxase (TraX), which has been shown to specifically nick in oriT2. pAM373 has a site, oriT, that is similar to oriT2 of pAD1. Both sites (oriT2 of pAD1 and oriT of pAM373) have a series of short direct repeats (5-6 bp with 5-6 bp-spacings) adjacent to a long inverted repeat (140 bp). The direct repeats differ significantly and confer specificity to the two systems. pAD1 and pAM373 are both able to mobilize the nonconjugative plasmid pAMalpha1, which encodes two relaxases that are involved in transfer. Relevant information concerning the possible movement of vancomycin resistance from E. faecalis to S. aureus in a clinical environment is discussed.

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