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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jan;63(2):530-44. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Horizontal transfer of virulence genes encoded on the Enterococcus faecalis pathogenicity island.

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1
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences, Center, PO Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73190, USA.

Abstract

Enterococcus faecalis, a leading cause of nosocomial antibiotic resistant infections, frequently possesses a 150 kb pathogenicity island (PAI) that carries virulence determinants. The presence of excisionase and integrase genes, conjugative functions and multiple insertion sequence elements suggests that the PAI, or segments thereof, might be capable of horizontal transfer. In this report, the transfer of the E. faecalis PAI is demonstrated and a mechanism for transfer elucidated. In filter matings, chloramphenicol resistance was observed to transfer from strain MMH594b, a clinical isolate possessing the PAI tagged with a cat marker, to OG1RF (pCGC) with a frequency of 3.2 x 10(-10) per donor. Secondary transfer from primary transconjugant TCRFB1 to strain JH2SS in filter and broth matings occurred with a frequency of 1 and 2 x 10(-1) per donor respectively. Analysis of the transconjugants demonstrated that a 27,744 bp internal PAI segment was capable of excision and circularization in the donor, and is mobilized as a cointegrate with a pTEF1-like plasmid. High-frequency transfer also occurred from TCRFB1 to JH2SS during transient colonization of the mouse gastrointestinal tract. This is the first demonstration of the horizontal transfer of PAI-encoded virulence determinants in E. faecalis and has implications for genome evolution and diversity.

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