Functional characterization of a gene cluster responsible for inositol catabolism associated with hospital-adapted isolates of Enterococcus faecium

Janetta Top, Jery Baan, Adinda Bisschop, Sergio Arredondo-Alonso, Willem van Schaik, Rob J L Willems

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Enterococcus faecium is a nosocomial, multidrug-resistant pathogen. Whole genome sequence studies revealed that hospital-associated E. faecium isolates are clustered in a separate clade A1. Here, we investigated the distribution, integration site and function of a putative iol gene cluster that encodes for myo-inositol (MI) catabolism. This iol gene cluster was found as part of an ~20 kbp genetic element (iol element), integrated in ICEEfm1 close to its integrase gene in E. faecium isolate E1679. Among 1644 E. faecium isolates, ICEEfm1 was found in 789/1227 (64.3 %) clade A1 and 3/417 (0.7 %) non-clade A1 isolates. The iol element was present at a similar integration site in 180/792 (22.7 %) ICEEfm1-containing isolates. Examination of the phylogenetic tree revealed genetically closely related isolates that differed in presence/absence of ICEEfm1 and/or iol element, suggesting either independent acquisition or loss of both elements. E. faecium iol gene cluster containing isolates E1679 and E1504 were able to grow in minimal medium with only myo-inositol as carbon source, while the iolD-deficient mutant in E1504 (E1504∆iolD) lost this ability and an iol gene cluster negative recipient strain gained this ability after acquisition of ICEEfm1 by conjugation from donor strain E1679. Gene expression profiling revealed that the iol gene cluster is only expressed in the absence of other carbon sources. In an intestinal colonization mouse model the colonization ability of E1504∆iolD mutant was not affected relative to the wild-type E1504 strain. In conclusion, we describe and functionally characterise a gene cluster involved in MI catabolism that is associated with the ICEEfm1 island in hospital-associated E. faecium isolates. We were unable to show that this gene cluster provides a competitive advantage during gut colonisation in a mouse model. Therefore, to what extent this gene cluster contributes to the spread and ecological specialisation of ICEEfm1-carrying hospital-associated isolates remains to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number001085
Number of pages12
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2021


  • Enterococcus faecium
  • ICEEfm1
  • hospital-associated
  • inositol catabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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