Characterization of the beta-lactamase gene from Enterococcus faecalis strain HH22

Karen Kay Zscheck, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The plasmid-encoded, constitutively produced $\beta$-lactamase gene from Enterococcus faecalis strain HH22 was genetically characterized. A restriction endonuclease map of the 5.1 kb EcoRI fragment encoding the enterococcal $\beta$-lactamase was prepared and compared with the restriction map of a cloned staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamase gene (from the naturally-occurring staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamase plasmid pI258). Comparison and hybridization studies showed that there were identical restriction sites in the region of the $\beta$-lactamase structural gene but not in the region surrounding this gene. Also the enterococcal $\beta$-lactamase plasmid did not encode resistance to mercury or cadmium which is encoded by the small, transducible staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamase plasmids. The nucleotide sequence of the enterococcal gene was shown to be identical to the published sequences of three of four staphylococcal type A $\beta$-lactamase genes; more differences were seen with the genes for staphylococcal type C and D enzymes. One hundred-forty nucleotides upstream of the $\beta$-lactamase start codon were also determined for the inducible staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamase gene on pI258; this sequence was identical to that of the constitutively expressed enterococcal gene indicating that the changes resulting in constitutive expression are not due to changes in the promoter or operator region. Moreover, complementation studies indicated that production of the enterococcal enzyme could be repressed. The gene for the enterococcal $\beta$-lactamase and an inducible staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamase were each cloned into a shuttle vector and then transformed into enterococcal and staphylococcal recipients. The major difference between the two host backgrounds was that more enzyme was produced by the staphylococcal host, regardless of the source of the gene but no qualitative difference was seen between the two genera. Also a difference in the level of resistance to ampicillin was seen between the two backgrounds with the cloned enzymes by MIC and time-kill studies. The location of the enzyme was found to be host dependent since each cloned gene generated extracellular (free) enzyme in the staphylococcus and cell bound enzyme in the enterococcus. Based on the identity of the enterococcal $\beta$-lactamase and several staphylococcal $\beta$-lactamases, these data suggest recent spread of $\beta$-lactamase to enterococci and also suggest loss of a functional repressor.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Microbiology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Zscheck, Karen Kay, "Characterization of the beta-lactamase gene from Enterococcus faecalis strain HH22" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9202583.