Mobilization of vancomycin resistance by transposon-mediated fusion of a VanA plasmid with an Enterococcus faecium sex pheromone-response plasmid

Gene. 1996 May 24;171(1):9-17. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(96)00022-4.


A striking feature of recent outbreaks of vancomycin-resistant (VmR) enterococci is the apparent horizontal dissemination of resistance determinants. The plasmids pHKK702 and pHKK703 from Enterococcus faecium clinical isolate R7 have been implicated in the conjugal transfer of VmR. pHKK702 is a 41-kb plasmid that contains an element indistinguishable from the glycopeptide-resistance transposon Tn1546. pHKK703 is an approx. 55-kb putative sex pheromone-response plasmid that is required for conjugative mobilization of pHKK702. During experiments in which strain R7 was used as a donor, a highly conjugative VmR transconjugant was isolated that formed constitutive cellular aggregates. Restriction analyses and DNA hybridizations revealed that the transconjugant harbored a single plasmid of approx. 92 kb and this plasmid (pHKK701) was composed of DNA from both pHKK702 and pHKK703. Results from DNA sequence analyses showed that a 39-kb composite transposon (Tn5506) from pHKK702 had inserted into pHKK703. The left end of Tn5506 contained a single insertion sequence (IS) element, IS1216V2, whereas the right end was composed of a tandem IS structure consisting of the novel 1065-bp IS1252 nested within an IS1216V1 element. Transposition of Tn5506 from pHKK702 to pHKK703 created an 8-bp target sequence duplication at the site of insertion and interrupted an ORF (ORFX) that was 91% identical to that of prgX, a gene proposed to negatively regulate sex pheromone response of the E.faecalis plasmid, pCF10. We propose that the interruption of ORFX by Tn5506 led to the constitutive cellular aggregation phenotype and thereby enhanced the efficiency with which VmR was transferred. Similar IS1216V-mediated transposition events may contribute to the horizontal spread of glycopeptide resistance among enterococci in nature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Adhesion / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Conjugation, Genetic / genetics*
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecium / drug effects*
  • Enterococcus faecium / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Replicon / genetics
  • Sex Attractants / genetics
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Sex Attractants
  • Vancomycin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L38972
  • GENBANK/L38973
  • GENBANK/U91527