RNA-seq and Tn-seq reveal fitness determinants of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium during growth in human serum

Xinglin Zhang, Vincent de Maat, Ana M Guzmán Prieto, Tomasz K Prajsnar, Jumamurat R Bayjanov, Mark de Been, Malbert R C Rogers, Marc J M Bonten, Stéphane Mesnage, Rob J L Willems, Willem van Schaik

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BACKGROUND: The Gram-positive bacterium Enterococcus faecium is a commensal of the human gastrointestinal tract and a frequent cause of bloodstream infections in hospitalized patients. The mechanisms by which E. faecium can survive and grow in blood during an infection have not yet been characterized. Here, we identify genes that contribute to growth of E. faecium in human serum through transcriptome profiling (RNA-seq) and a high-throughput transposon mutant library sequencing approach (Tn-seq).

RESULTS: We first sequenced the genome of E. faecium E745, a vancomycin-resistant clinical isolate, using a combination of short- and long read sequencing, revealing a 2,765,010 nt chromosome and 6 plasmids, with sizes ranging between 9.3 kbp and 223.7 kbp. We then compared the transcriptome of E. faecium E745 during exponential growth in rich medium and in human serum by RNA-seq. This analysis revealed that 27.8% of genes on the E. faecium E745 genome were differentially expressed in these two conditions. A gene cluster with a role in purine biosynthesis was among the most upregulated genes in E. faecium E745 upon growth in serum. The E. faecium E745 transposon mutant library was then used to identify genes that were specifically required for growth of E. faecium in serum. Genes involved in de novo nucleotide biosynthesis (including pyrK_2, pyrF, purD, purH) and a gene encoding a phosphotransferase system subunit (manY_2) were thus identified to be contributing to E. faecium growth in human serum. Transposon mutants in pyrK_2, pyrF, purD, purH and manY_2 were isolated from the library and their impaired growth in human serum was confirmed. In addition, the pyrK_2 and manY_2 mutants were tested for their virulence in an intravenous zebrafish infection model and exhibited significantly attenuated virulence compared to E. faecium E745.

CONCLUSIONS: Genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and nucleotide biosynthesis of E. faecium are essential for growth in human serum and contribute to the pathogenesis of this organism. These genes may serve as targets for the development of novel anti-infectives for the treatment of E. faecium bloodstream infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article number893
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2017


  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Transcriptome
  • Transposon mutant library screening
  • Nucleotide biosynthesis
  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Virulence
  • Zebrafish


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