Horizontal transfer of multiple penicillin-binding protein genes, and capsular biosynthetic genes, in natural populations of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Mol Microbiol. 1991 Sep;5(9):2255-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1991.tb02155.x.


Multiply antibiotic-resistant serotype 23F isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae are prevalent in Spain and have also been recovered recently in the United Kingdom and the United States. Analysis of populations of these isolates by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis, and restriction endonuclease cleavage electrophoretic profiling of penicillin-binding protein (PBP) genes, has demonstrated that these isolates are a single clone (Muñoz et al., 1991). Here we report studies of non-serotype 23F penicillin-resistant pneumococci isolated in Spain and the United Kingdom. One of the isolates expressed serotype 19 capsule but was otherwise indistinguishable from the serotype 23F clone on the basis of multilocus enzyme electrophoresis, antibiotic resistance profiling, and restriction endonuclease patterns of genes encoding PBP1A, PBP2B and PBP2X, a result which suggests that horizontal transfer of capsular biosynthesis genes had occurred. These same techniques revealed that six other resistant isolates, all expressing serotype 9 polysaccharide capsule, represent a clone. Interestingly, the chromosomal lineage of this clone is not closely related to the 23F clone; however, the serotype 9 and 23F clones harbour apparently identical PBP1A, -2B and -2X genes. To explain these data, we favour the interpretation that horizontal gene transfer in natural populations has distributed genes encoding altered forms of PBP1A, -2B and -2X to distinct evolutionary lineages of S. pneumoniae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Aminoacyltransferases*
  • Bacterial Capsules / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Chloramphenicol Resistance / genetics
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Hexosyltransferases*
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase / genetics*
  • Penicillin Resistance / genetics
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Peptidyl Transferases*
  • Serotyping
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics*
  • Tetracycline Resistance / genetics
  • Transfection / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Aminoacyltransferases
  • penicillin-binding protein 2b, Streptococcus
  • Peptidyl Transferases
  • Hexosyltransferases
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase