Combinations of PBPs and MurM protein variants in early and contemporary high-level penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates in Spain

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High-level penicillin resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae requires extensive re-modulation of the penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), and murM gene function is also required for the expression of resistance. In this work, we determined whether specific changes in PBPs were associated with specific MurM variants.


Two collections of highly penicillin-resistant (MIC 2–8 mg/L) isolates, including 10 early (1997–1998) and 23 contemporary (2002–2004) isolates, were studied.


Most of the isolates belonged to clones Spain6B-2 (13 strains), Spain23F-1 (10 isolates) and Spain14-5 (20 isolates). Different protein variants of MurM (MA, MB5, MB6, MB9 and MB10), PBP1A (A–C), PBP2B (A–D) and PBP2X (A–C) were recognized, including two murM alleles not previously described. Particular [MurM-PBP1A-2B-2X] allelic combinations were predominant among the different clones, including [MA-B-B-B] for old (MIC 2 mg/L) and [MB10-C-A-B] for recent (MIC 4–8 mg/L) Spain6B-2 isolates, [MA-A-C-A] for Spain23F-1 and [MB5-A-A-A] in Spain14-5 isolates.


Although S. pneumoniae has a basic recombinational population structure, our results indicate remarkable conservation of PBPs and MurM protein types within each clone. This suggests that particular PBPs–MurM combinations tend to be preserved and may have an independent evolutionary history in particular clones.

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