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PLoS One. 2010 Nov 9;5(11):e15467. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015467.

Heat resistance mediated by a new plasmid encoded Clp ATPase, ClpK, as a possible novel mechanism for nosocomial persistence of Klebsiella pneumoniae.

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Department of Microbiological Surveillance and Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Klebsiella pneumoniae is an important opportunistic pathogen and a frequent cause of nosocomial infections. We have characterized a K. pneumoniae strain responsible for a series of critical infections in an intensive care unit over a two-year period. The strain was found to be remarkably thermotolerant providing a conceivable explanation of its persistence in the hospital environment. This marked phenotype is mediated by a novel type of Clp ATPase, designated ClpK. The clpK gene is encoded by a conjugative plasmid and we find that the clpK gene alone renders an otherwise sensitive E. coli strain resistant to lethal heat shock. Furthermore, one third of a collection of nosocomial K. pneumoniae isolates carry clpK and exhibit a heat resistant phenotype. The discovery of ClpK as a plasmid encoded factor and its profound impact on thermal stress survival sheds new light on the biological relevance of Clp ATPases in acquired environmental fitness and highlights the challenges of mobile genetic elements in fighting nosocomial infections.

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