Fitness Restoration of a Genetically Tractable Enterococcus faecalis V583 Derivative To Study Decoration-Related Phenotypes of the Enterococcal Polysaccharide Antigen
Commensal and generally harmless in healthy individuals, Enterococcus faecalis causes opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients. Plasmid-cured E. faecalis strain VE14089, derived from sequenced reference strain V583, is widely used for functional studies due to its improved genetic amenability. Although strain VE14089 has no major DNA rearrangements, with the exception of an ~20-kb integrated region of pTEF1 plasmid, the strain presented significant growth differences from the V583 reference strain of our collection (renamed VE14002). In the present study, genome sequencing of strain VE14089 identified additional point mutations. Excision of the integrated pTEF1 plasmid region and sequential restoration of wild-type alleles showing nonsilent mutations were performed to obtain the VE18379 reference-derivative strain. Recovery of the growth ability of the restored VE18379 strain at a level similar to that seen with the reference strain points to GreA and Spx as bacterial fitness determinants. Virulence potential in Galleria mellonella and intestinal colonization in mouse demonstrated host adaptation of the VE18379 strain equivalent to VE14002 host adaptation. We further demonstrated that deletion of the 16.8-kb variable region of the epa locus recapitulates the key role of Epa decoration in host adaptation, providing a genetic system to study the role of specific epa-variable regions in host adaptation independently of other genetic variations.IMPORTANCE E. faecalis strain VE14089 was derived from V583 cured of its plasmids. Although VE14089 had no major DNA rearrangements, it presented significant growth and host adaptation differences from the reference strain V583 of our collection. To construct a strain with better fitness, we sequenced the genome of VE14089, identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and repaired the genes that could account for these changes. Using this reference-derivative strain, we provide a novel genetic system to understand the role of the variable region of epa in the enterococcal lifestyle.