Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Penicillin resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae has been attributed so far to the production of penicillin-binding protein (PBP) variants with decreased affinities for β-lactam antibiotics. Cefotaxime-resistant laboratory mutants, selected after several steps on increasing concentrations of this β-lactam, become deficient in transformation as well. A DNA fragment conferring both cefotaxime resistance and transformation deficiency was isolated and cloned from the mutant C306. The cefotaxime resistance associated with this resistance determinant was not accompanied with apparent changes in PBP properties, and it mapped on the chromosome distinct from the known resistance determinants, genes encoding PBP2x, PBP1a or PBP2b. Determination of a 2265 bp DNA sequence of the resistance determinant revealed two open reading frames, claR and claH, whose deduced amino acid sequence identified the corresponding proteins as the response regulator and histidine kinase receptor, respectively (members of the two families of bacterial signal-transducing proteins). Two hydrophobic peptide regions divided the histidine kinase ClaH into two putative domains: an N-terminal extracelluiar sensor part, and an intracelluiar C-terminal domain with the conserved His-226 residue, the presumed phosphorylation site. The single point mutations responsible for cefotaxime-resistance and transformation deficiency of C306 and of another two independently isolated cefotaxime-resistant mutants were each located in the C-terminal half of ClaH. A small extracellular protein, the competence factor, is required for induction of competence. Neither C306 nor the transformants obtained with the mutated claH gene produced competence factor, and exogenous competence factor could not complement the transformation deficiency, indicating that the signal-transducing system cia is involved in early steps of competence regulation.
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