Indexed on: 14 Sep '06Published on: 14 Sep '06Published in: Molecular Microbiology
The level of penicillin resistance in clinical isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae depends not only on the reduced affinity of penicillin binding proteins (PBPs) but also on the functioning of enzymes that modify the stem peptide structure of cell wall precursors. We used mariner mutagenesis in search of additional genetic determinants that may further attenuate the level of penicillin resistance in the bacteria. A mariner mutant of the highly penicillin-resistant S. pneumoniae strain Pen6 showed reduction of the penicillin minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) from 6 to 0.75 microg ml(-1). Decrease in penicillin MIC was also observed upon introduction of the mutation (named provisionally adr, for attenuator of drug resistance) into representatives of major epidemic clones of penicillin-resistant pneumococci. Attenuation of resistance levels was specific for beta-lactams. The adr mutant has retained unchanged (low affinity) PBPs, unaltered murM gene and unchanged cell wall stem peptide composition, but the mutant became hypersensitive to exogenous lysozyme and complementation experiments showed that both phenotypes--reduced resistance and lysozyme sensitivity--were linked to the defective adr gene. DNA sequence comparison and chemical analysis of the cell wall identified adr as the structural gene of the pneumococcal peptidoglycan O-acetylase.