Interference in Pheromone-Responsive Conjugation of a High-Level Bacitracin Resistant Enterococcus faecalis Plasmid of Poultry Origin
Bacitracin resistance (bacitracin MIC, >/=256 microg ml(-1)) has been reported in Enterococcus faecalis, and in the present study we report on the genetic basis for this resistance. Mutagenesis was carried out with transposon Tn917 to select for E. faecalis mutants with decreased resistance to bacitracin. Two bacitracin-sensitive mutants (MICs, 32 microg ml(-1)) were obtained and Tn917 insertions were mapped to genes designated bcrA and bcrB. The amino acid sequences of BcrA (ATP-binding domain) and BrcB (membrane-spanning domain) are predicted to constitute a homodimeric ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter, the function of which is essential for bacitracin resistance in E. faecalis. The bcrA and bcrB genes were organized in an operon with a third gene, bcrD, that had homology to undecaprenol kinases. Northern analysis demonstrated that bcrA, bcrB, and bcrD were transcribed as a polycistronic message that was induced by increasing concentrations of bacitracin but not by other cell wall-active antimicrobials (e.g., vancomycin). Upstream of the bcrABD operon was a putative regulatory gene, bcrR. The bcrR gene was expressed constitutively, and deletion of bcrR resulted in a bacitracin-sensitive phenotype. No bcrABD expression was observed in a bcrR mutant, suggesting that BcrR is an activator of genes essential for bacitracin resistance (i.e., bcrABD). The bacitracin resistance genes were found to be located on a plasmid that transferred at a high frequency to E. faecalis strain JH2-2. This report represents the first description of genes that are essential for acquired bacitracin resistance in E. faecalis.