BACKGROUND: Enterococcus faecalis is one of the leading agents of nosocomial infections. To cause diseases, pathogens or opportunistic bacteria have to adapt and survive to the defense systems encountered in the host. One of the most important compounds of the host innate defense response against invading microorganisms is lysozyme. It is found in a wide variety of body fluids, as well as in cells of the innate immune system. Lysozyme could act either as a muramidase and/or as a cationic antimicrobial peptide. Like Staphylococcus aureus, E. faecalis is one of the few bacteria that are completely lysozyme resistant. RESULTS: This study revealed that oatA (O-acetyl transferase) and dlt (D-Alanylation of lipoteicoic acids) genes contribute only partly to the lysozyme resistance of E. faecalis and that a specific transcriptional regulator, the extracytoplasmic function SigV sigma factor plays a key role in this event. Indeed, the sigV single mutant is as sensitive as the oatA/dltA double mutant, and the sigV/oatA/dltA triple mutant displays the highest level of lysozyme sensitivity suggesting synergistic effects of these genes. In S. aureus, mutation of both oatA and dlt genes abolishes completely the lysozyme resistance, whereas this is not the case in E. faecalis. Interestingly SigV does not control neither oatA nor dlt genes. Moreover, the sigV mutants clearly showed a reduced capacity to colonize host tissues, as they are significantly less recovered than the parental JH2-2 strain from organs of mice subjected to intravenous or urinary tract infections. CONCLUSIONS: This work led to the discovery of an original model of lysozyme resistance mechanism which is obviously more complex than those described for other Gram positive pathogens. Moreover, our data provide evidences for a direct link between lysozyme resistance and virulence of E. faecalis.
- Enterococcu faecalis