Construction and characterization of Enterococcus faecalis CG110/gfp/pRE25*, a tool for monitoring horizontal gene transfer in complex microbial ecosystems


  • Editor: André Klier

Correspondence: Leo Meile, Laboratory of Food Biotechnology, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH Zurich, Schmelzbergstrasse 7, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 44 632 33 62; fax: +41 44 632 14 03; e-mail:


Enterococci are among the most notorious bacteria involved in the spread of antibiotic resistance (ABR) determinants via horizontal gene transfer, a process that leads to increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In complex microbial communities with a high background of ABR genes, detection of gene transfer is possible only when the ABR determinant is marked. Therefore, the conjugative multiresistance plasmid pRE25, originating from a sausage-associated Enterococcus faecalis, was tagged with a 34-bp random sequence marker spliced by tet(M). The plasmid constructed, designated pRE25*, was introduced into E. faecalis CG110/gfp, a strain containing a gfp gene as chromosomal marker. The plasmid pRE25* is fully functional compared with its parental pRE25, occurs at one to two copies per chromosome, and can be transferred to Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria innocua at frequencies of 6 × 10−6 to 8 × 10−8 transconjugants per donor. The markers on the chromosome and the plasmid enable independent quantification of donor and plasmid, even if ABR genes occur at high numbers in the background ecosystem. Both markers were stable for at least 200 generations, permitting application of the strain in long-running experiments. Enterococcus faecalis CG110/gfp/pRE25* is a potent tool for the investigation of horizontal ABR gene transfer in complex environments such as food matrices, biofilms or colonic models.