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Microbiology. 2012 Sep;158(Pt 9):2353-62. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.058206-0. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Molecular characterization of a novel mosaic tet(S/M) gene encoding tetracycline resistance in foodborne strains of Streptococcus bovis.

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INRAN - National Research Institute on Food & Nutrition, Via Ardeatina 546, 00178 Roma, Italy.


The presence of antibiotic-resistance (AR) genes in foodborne bacteria of enteric origin represents a relevant threat to human health in the case of opportunistic pathogens, which can reach the human gut through the food chain. Streptococcus bovis is a human opportunistic pathogen often associated with infections in immune-compromised or cancer patients, and it can also be detected in the environment, including fermented foods. We have focused on the molecular characterization of a tetracycline (Tet)-resistance gene present in 39 foodborne isolates of S. bovis phenotypically resistant to this drug. The gene was identified as a novel tet(S/M) fusion, encoding a mosaic protein composed of the N-terminal 33 amino acids of Tet(S), in-frame with the Tet(M) coding sequence. Heterologous expression of the mosaic gene was found to confer Tet resistance upon Escherichia coli recipients. Moreover, the tet(S/M) gene was found to be transcriptionally inducible by Tet under the endogenous tet(S) promoter in both S. bovis and E. coli. Nucleotide sequencing of the surrounding genomic region of 16.2 kb revealed large blocks of homology with the genomes of Streptococcus infantarius and Lactococcus lactis. A subregion of about 4 kb containing mosaic tet(S/M) was flanked by two copies of the IS1216 mobile element. PCR amplification with primers directed outwards from the tet(S/M) gene identified the presence of a 4.3 kb circular form corresponding to the intervening chromosomal region between the two IS1216 elements, but lacking a replication origin. The circular element shared extensive overall homology with a region of the multidrug-resistance plasmid pK214 from Lc. lactis, containing tet(S), as well as the IS1216 transposase-containing element and intervening non-coding sequences. Linear reconstruction of the insertion events likely to have occurred within this genomic region, inferred from sequence homology, provides further evidence of the chromosomal rearrangements that drive genomic evolution in complex bacterial communities such as the gut and food microbiota.

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