Identification and characterization of virulence factors in Enterococcus faecalis

Xiang Qin, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Enterococci are one of the leading causes of nosocomial infections, and Enterococcus faecalis causes the majority of enterococcal infections. However, the mechanisms of enterococcal pathogenesis are still not yet understood. In our initial screening of E. faecalis strain OG1RF genomic libraries, autolysin and a homolog of a protein of Enterococcus faecium previously designated P54 were found to be two major antigens that reacted with human patient sera, and an antigen designated MH-1 antigen that reacted with serum from a endocarditis patient was also identified. To explore a possible role for these antigens in enterococcal infections, the genes encoding these three antigens were disrupted in Enterococcus faecalis OG1RF. To explore a possible role of an E. faecalis gelatinase (encoded by gelE), which belongs to a family of Zn-metalloproteases that have been shown to be virulence factors in other organisms, in enterococcal infections, an insertion mutant was constructed in OG1RF and tested in the mouse peritonitis model. The mice infected with the gelE mutant showed a significantly prolonged survival compared to the wild type strain. To study the expression of gelE, the regions flanking gelE were sequenced. Sequence analysis of the gelE flanking regions revealed three genes (fsrA, fsrB and fsrC) upstream of gelE that show homology to the genes in a locus (agr) that globally regulates the expression of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus and one open reading frame (sprE) with homology to bacterial serine protease downstream of gelE. In conclusion, in this study of identification of possible virulence factors in E. faecalis surface and secreted proteins, of three genes encoding antigens detected by human patient sera, none could be shown to effect virulence in the mouse peritonitis model. Inactivation of one of these antigens (autolysin) was shown to slightly increase the tolerance of E. faecalis to penicillin. A serine protease and a locus (fsr) that regulates the expression of gelE and sprE were shown to be important for enterococcal infection in the mouse peritonitis model. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Microbiology|Molecular biology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Qin, Xiang, "Identification and characterization of virulence factors in Enterococcus faecalis" (2000). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9976289.