Single-cell analysis of glycopeptide resistance gene expression in teicoplanin-resistant mutants of a VanB-type Enterococcus faecalis

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Abstract

Summary

The vanB gene cluster confers resistance to vancomycin but not to the related antibiotic teicoplanin, as the VanRBSB two-component regulatory system triggers expression of the glycopeptide resistance genes only in response to vancomycin. The VanRB regulator activates promoters PRB and PYB for transcription of the regulatory (vanRBSB) and resistance (vanYBWHBBXB) genes respectively. The gfpmut1 gene encoding a green fluorescent protein was fused to PYB to analyse promoter activation in single cells by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. Characterization of 17 teicoplanin-resistant mutants indicated that amino acid substitutions on either side of the VanSB autophosphorylation site led to a constitutive phenotype. Substitutions in the membrane-associated domain resulted in a gain of function, as they allowed induction by teicoplanin. A vanSB null mutant expressed gfpmut1 at various levels under non-inducing conditions, and the majority of the bacteria were not fluorescent. Bacteria grown in the presence of vancomycin or teicoplanin were homogeneously fluorescent. The increase in the number of fluorescent bacteria resulted from induction in negative cells rather than from selection of a resistant subpopulation, indicating that VanRB was activated by cross-talk. Transglycosylase inhibition was probably the stimulus for the heterologous kinase, as moenomycin was also an inducer.

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