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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1998 Sep;42(9):2215-20.

Glycopeptide antibiotic resistance genes in glycopeptide-producing organisms.

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Department of Biochemistry, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5.


The mechanism of high-level resistance to vancomycin in enterococci consists of the synthesis of peptidoglycan terminating in D-alanyl-D-lactate instead of the usual D-alanyl-D-alanine. This alternate cell wall biosynthesis pathway is ensured by the collective actions of three enzymes: VanH, VanA, and VanX. The origin of this resistance mechanism is unknown. We have cloned three genes encoding homologs of VanH, VanA, and VanX from two organisms which produce glycopeptide antibiotics: the A47934 producer Streptomyces toyocaensis NRRL 15009 and the vancomycin producer Amycolatopsis orientalis C329.2. The predicted amino acid sequences are highly similar to those found in VRE: 54 to 61% identity for VanH, 59 to 63% identity for VanA, and 61 to 64% identity for VanX. Furthermore, the orientations of the genes, vanH, vanA, and vanX, are identical to the orientations found in vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Southern analysis of total DNA from other glycopeptide-producing organisms, A. orientalis 18098 (chloro-eremomycin producer), A. orientalis subsp. lurida (ristocetin producer), and Amycolatopsis coloradensis subsp. labeda (teicoplanin and avoparcin producer), with a probe derived from the vanH, vanA, and vanX cluster from A. orientalis C329.2 revealed cross-hybridizing DNA in all strains. In addition, the vanH, vanA, vanX cluster was amplified from all glycopeptide-producing organisms by PCR with degenerate primers complementary to conserved regions in VanH and VanX. Thus, this gene sequence is common to all glycopeptide producers tested. These results suggest that glycopeptide-producing organisms may have been the source of resistance genes in vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

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