Tracing the Enterococci from Paleozoic Origins to the Hospital.
Enterococcus faecium has become a nosocomial pathogen of major importance, causing infections that are difficult to treat owing to its multi-drug resistance. In particular, resistance to the β-lactam antibiotic ampicillin has become ubiquitous among clinical isolates. Mutations in the low-affinity penicillin binding protein PBP5 have previously been shown to be important for ampicillin resistance in E. faecium, but the existence of additional resistance determinants has been suggested. Here, we constructed a high-density transposon mutant library in E. faecium and developed a transposon mutant tracking approach termed Microarray-based Transposon Mapping (M-TraM), leading to the identification of a compendium of E. faecium genes that contribute to ampicillin resistance. These genes are part of the core genome of E. faecium, indicating a high potential for E. faecium to evolve towards β-lactam resistance. To validate the M-TraM results, we adapted a Cre-lox recombination system to construct targeted, markerless mutants in E. faecium. We confirmed the role of four genes in ampicillin resistance by the generation of targeted mutants and further characterized these mutants regarding their resistance to lysozyme. The results revealed that ddcP, a gene predicted to encode a low-molecular-weight penicillin binding protein with D-alanyl-D-alanine carboxypeptidase activity, was essential for high-level ampicillin resistance. Furthermore, deletion of ddcP sensitized E. faecium to lysozyme and abolished membrane-associated D,D-carboxypeptidase activity. This study has led to the development of a broadly applicable platform for functional genomic-based studies in E. faecium, and it provides a new perspective on the genetic basis of ampicillin resistance in this organism.