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Cephalosporins are commonly prescribed antibiotics that impair cross-linking of the bacterial cell wall. The Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen, Enterococcus faecalis, is intrinsically resistant to these antibiotics and proliferates substantially during cephalosporin therapy. As a result, the usage of cephalosporins has the potential to lead to life-threatening enterococcal infections. Yet, the molecular mechanisms that drive cephalosporin resistance (CR) are incompletely understood. Previously, we demonstrated that MurAA, an enzyme that catalyzes the first committed step in peptidoglycan (PG) synthesis, is required for CR. However, the mechanism by which MurAA contributes to CR remained unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that MurAA drives CR by controlling metabolic flux through the PG synthesis pathway. To do so, we developed and exploited an inducible gene expression system for E. faecalis based on an interspecies chimeric receptor that responds to exogenous nitrate for control of expression from a NisR-regulated promoter (PnisA). We used this tool to demonstrate synthetic lethality of MurAA with its homolog MurAB, to titrate expression of MurAA, and to conditionally deplete multiple PG synthesis enzymes downstream of MurAA that are predicted to be essential. These genetic manipulations, in addition to pharmacological inhibition of the PG synthesis pathway, all led to reductions in PG synthesis that correlated with reductions in CR. Our findings are consistent with a model in which control of metabolic flux through the PG synthesis pathway is a major driver of CR. IMPORTANCE Enterococci are dangerous opportunistic pathogens with the potential to cause life-threatening infections due in part to their intrinsic resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms that provide this resistance is critical for the development of strategies to both prevent and treat enterococcal infections. Here, we report that the cell wall synthesis enzyme, MurAA, drives cephalosporin resistance at least in part by controlling metabolic flux through the peptidoglycan synthesis pathway. To demonstrate this, we designed and validated an inducible gene expression system based on a chimeric receptor that is functional in multiple lineages of E. faecalis. In doing so, we provided a new tool for inducible gene expression with broad applications beyond our studies, including studies of essential genes.


Carly A Mascari, Dušanka Djorić, Jaime L Little, Christopher J Kristich. Use of an Interspecies Chimeric Receptor for Inducible Gene Expression Reveals that Metabolic Flux through the Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis Pathway is an Important Driver of Cephalosporin Resistance in Enterococcus faecalis. Journal of bacteriology. 2022 Apr 19;204(4):e0060221

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PMID: 35258319

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