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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Dec;57(12):5843-53. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00425-13. Epub 2013 Sep 9.

Comprehensive identification of mutations responsible for heterogeneous vancomycin-intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (hVISA)-to-VISA conversion in laboratory-generated VISA strains derived from hVISA clinical strain Mu3.

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Department of Bacteriology, Faculty of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan.


Heterogeneous vancomycin-intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (hVISA) spontaneously produces VISA cells within its cell population at a frequency of 10(-6) or greater. We established a total of 45 VISA mutant strains independently obtained from hVISA Mu3 and its related strains by one-step vancomycin selection. We then performed high-throughput whole-genome sequencing of the 45 strains and their parent strains to identify the genes involved in the hVISA-to-VISA phenotypic conversion. A comparative genome study showed that all the VISA strains tested carried a unique set of mutations. All of the 45 VISA strains carried 1 to 4 mutations possibly affecting the expression of a total of 48 genes. Among them, 32 VISA strains carried only one gene affected by a single mutation. As many as 20 genes in more than eight functional categories were affected in the 32 VISA strains, which explained the extremely high rates of the hVISA-to-VISA phenotypic conversion. Five genes, rpoB, rpoC, walK, pbp4, and pp2c, were previously reported as being involved in vancomycin resistance. Fifteen remaining genes were newly identified as associated with vancomycin resistance in this study. The gene most frequently affected (6 out of 32 strains) was cmk, which encodes cytidylate kinase, followed closely by rpoB (5 out of 32), encoding the β subunit of RNA polymerase. A mutation prevalence study also revealed a sizable number of cmk mutants among clinical VISA strains (7 out of 38 [18%]). Reduced cytidylate kinase activity in cmk mutant strains is proposed to contribute to the hVISA-to-VISA phenotype conversion by thickening the cell wall and reducing the cell growth rate.

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