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J Bacteriol. 2018 Jun 11;200(13). pii: e00607-17. doi: 10.1128/JB.00607-17. Print 2018 Jul 1.

d-Alanyl-d-Alanine Ligase as a Broad-Host-Range Counterselection Marker in Vancomycin-Resistant Lactic Acid Bacteria.

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Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Contributed equally


The peptidoglycan composition in lactic acid bacteria dictates vancomycin resistance. Vancomycin binds relatively poorly to peptidoglycan ending in d-alanyl-d-lactate and binds with high affinity to peptidoglycan ending in d-alanyl-d-alanine (d-Ala-d-Ala), which results in vancomycin resistance and sensitivity, respectively. The enzyme responsible for generating these peptidoglycan precursors is dipeptide ligase (Ddl). A single amino acid in the Ddl active site, phenylalanine or tyrosine, determines depsipeptide or dipeptide activity, respectively. Here, we established that heterologous expression of dipeptide ligase in vancomycin-resistant lactobacilli increases their sensitivity to vancomycin in a dose-dependent manner and overcomes the effects of the presence of a native d-Ala-d-Ala dipeptidase. We incorporated the dipeptide ligase gene on a suicide vector and demonstrated that it functions as a counterselection marker (CSM) in lactobacilli; vancomycin selection allows only those cells to grow in which the suicide vector has been lost. Subsequently, we developed a liquid-based approach to identify recombinants in only 5 days, which is approximately half the time required by conventional approaches. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that Ddl serves as a marker to predict vancomycin resistance and consequently indicated the broad applicability of the use of Ddl as a counterselection marker in the genus Lactobacillus Finally, our system represents the first "plug and play" counterselection system in lactic acid bacteria that does not require prior genome editing and/or synthetic medium.IMPORTANCE The genus Lactobacillus contains more than 200 species, many of which are exploited in the food and biotechnology industries and in medicine. Prediction of intrinsic vancomycin resistance has thus far been limited to selected Lactobacillus species. Here, we show that heterologous expression of the enzyme Ddl (dipeptide ligase)-an essential enzyme involved in peptidoglycan synthesis-increases sensitivity to vancomycin in a dose-dependent manner. We exploited this to develop a counterselection marker for use in vancomycin-resistant lactobacilli, thereby expanding the poorly developed genome editing toolbox that is currently available for most strains. Also, we showed that Ddl is a phylogenetic marker that can be used to predict vancomycin resistance in Lactobacillus; 81% of Lactobacillus species are intrinsically resistant to vancomycin, which makes our tool broadly applicable.


Ddl ligase; Lactobacillus; Lactobacillus reuteri; counterselection; genome editing; lactic acid bacteria; peptidoglycan; probiotics; vancomycin resistance

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