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Several drug resistances in Streptococcus pneumoniae are associated with mobile genetic elements, which are loosely subdivided into a group of smaller (18- to 27-kb) and a group of larger (>50-kb) elements. While the elements of the former group, which typically carry the tetracycline resistance determinant tet(M) and whose prototype is Tn916 (18 kb), have been studied extensively, the larger elements, whose prototype is Tn5253 (∼65.5 kb), are not as well explored. Tn5253 is a composite structure consisting of two independent conjugative transposons, Tn5251 (which is virtually identical to Tn916) and Tn5252 (∼47.5 kb), with the former inserted into the latter. Tn5252, which so far has only partially been sequenced, carries an integrase gene, driving its site-specific insertion into the host cell genome, and the chloramphenicol resistance cat(pC194) determinant. This study investigated 20 clinical isolates of S. pneumoniae, which were selected on the basis of cat(pC194)-mediated chloramphenicol resistance. All 20 isolates harbored a Tn5253-like element. The composite elements (some of which have been completely sequenced) demonstrated considerable heterogeneity that stemmed from a dual variability: in the Tn5252-like element, due primarily to differences in the integrase gene but also to differences in cargo genes and in the overall genetic organization, and in the Tn916-like element, with the possible involvement, besides Tn916, of a number of Tn916 family pneumococcal elements carrying different erythromycin resistance genes. In mating experiments, only one composite element, containing a less typical Tn916 family element, appeared to be nonmobile. Being part of a Tn5253-like composite element may confer on some Tn916-like transposons, which are apparently nontransferable as independent genetic elements, the ability to be mobilized.


Marina Mingoia, Emily Tili, Esther Manso, Pietro E Varaldo, Maria Pia Montanari. Heterogeneity of Tn5253-like composite elements in clinical Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. 2011 Apr;55(4):1453-9

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PMID: 21263055

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