[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Conjugation is one of the most common ways bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance, contributing to the emergence of multidrug-resistant "superbugs." Bacteria of the genus Enterococcus faecalis are highly antibiotic-resistant nosocomial pathogens that use the mechanism of conjugation to spread antibiotic resistance between resistance-bearing donor cells and resistance-deficient recipient cells. Here, we report a unique quorum sensing-based communication system that uses two antagonistic signaling molecules to regulate conjugative transfer of tetracycline-resistance plasmid pCF10 in E. faecalis. A "mate-sensing" peptide sex pheromone produced by recipient cells is detected by donor cells to induce conjugative genetic transfer. Using mathematical modeling and experimentation, we show that a second antagonistic "self-sensing" signaling peptide, previously known to suppress self-induction of donor cells, also serves as a classic quorum-sensing signal for donors that functions to reduce antibiotic-resistance transfer at high donor density. This unique form of quorum sensing may provide a means of limiting the spread of the plasmid and present opportunities to control antibiotic-resistance transfer through manipulation of intercellular signaling, with implications in the clinical setting.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Conjugation is an important mode of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria, enhancing the spread of antibiotic resistance. In clinical settings, biofilms are likely locations for antibiotic resistance transfer events involving nosocomial pathogens such as Enterococcus faecalis. Here we demonstrate that growth in biofilms alters the induction of conjugation by a sex pheromone in E. faecalis. Mathematical modelling suggested that a higher plasmid copy number in biofilm cells would enhance a switch-like behaviour in the pheromone response of donor cells with a delayed, but increased response to the mating signal. Alterations in plasmid copy number, and a bimodal response to induction of conjugation in populations of plasmid-containing donor cells were both observed in biofilms, consistent with the predictions of the model. The pheromone system may have evolved such that donor cells in biofilms are only induced to transfer when they are in extremely close proximity to potential recipients in the biofilm community. These results may have important implications for development of chemotherapeutic agents to block resistance transfer and treat biofilm-related clinical infections.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Enterococcus faecalis is a significant cause of infective endocarditis, an infection of the heart endothelium leading to vegetation formation (microbes, fibrin, platelets, and host cells attached to underlying endothelial tissue). Our previous research determined that enterococcal aggregation substance (AS) is an important virulence factor in causation of endocarditis, although endocarditis may occur in the absence of AS production. Production of AS by E. faecalis causes the organism to form aggregates through AS binding to enterococcal binding substance. In this study, we assessed the ability of IgGs and IgG Fabs against AS to provide protection against AS+ E. faecalis endocarditis.
When challenged with AS+ E. faecalis, 10 rabbits actively immunized against AS+ E. faecalis developed more significant vegetations than 9 animals immunized against AS⁻E. faecalis, and 9/10 succumbed compared to 2/9 (p<0.005), suggesting enhanced aggregation by IgG contributes significantly to disease. IgG antibodies against AS also enhanced enterococcal aggregation as tested in vitro. In contrast, Fab fragments of IgG from rabbits immunized against purified AS, when passively administered to rabbits (6/group) immediately before challenge with AS+E. faecalis, reduced total vegetation (endocarditis lesion) microbial counts (7.9 x 10⁶ versus 2.0 x 10⁵, p = 0.02) and size (40 mg versus 10, p = 0.05). In vitro, the Fabs prevented enterococcal aggregation.
The data confirm the role of AS in infective endocarditis formation and suggest that use of Fabs against AS will provide partial protection from AS+E. faecalis illness.