Nonclinical and clinical Enterococcus faecium strains, but not Enterococcus faecalis strains, have distinct structural and functional genomic features

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jan;80(1):154-65. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03108-13. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


Certain strains of Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis contribute beneficially to animal health and food production, while others are associated with nosocomial infections. To determine whether there are structural and functional genomic features that are distinct between nonclinical (NC) and clinical (CL) strains of those species, we analyzed the genomes of 31 E. faecium and 38 E. faecalis strains. Hierarchical clustering of 7,017 orthologs found in the E. faecium pangenome revealed that NC strains clustered into two clades and are distinct from CL strains. NC E. faecium genomes are significantly smaller than CL genomes, and this difference was partly explained by significantly fewer mobile genetic elements (ME), virulence factors (VF), and antibiotic resistance (AR) genes. E. faecium ortholog comparisons identified 68 and 153 genes that are enriched for NC and CL strains, respectively. Proximity analysis showed that CL-enriched loci, and not NC-enriched loci, are more frequently colocalized on the genome with ME. In CL genomes, AR genes are also colocalized with ME, and VF are more frequently associated with CL-enriched loci. Genes in 23 functional groups are also differentially enriched between NC and CL E. faecium genomes. In contrast, differences were not observed between NC and CL E. faecalis genomes despite their having larger genomes than E. faecium. Our findings show that unlike E. faecalis, NC and CL E. faecium strains are equipped with distinct structural and functional genomic features indicative of adaptation to different environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Enterococcus faecalis / genetics*
  • Enterococcus faecalis / isolation & purification
  • Enterococcus faecium / genetics*
  • Enterococcus faecium / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Interspersed Repetitive Sequences
  • Synteny