Virulence, phenotype and genotype characteristics of endodontic Enterococcus spp.

C. M. Sedgley, A. Molander, S. E. Flannagan, A. C. Nagel, O. K. Appelbe, D. B. Clewell, G. Dahlén

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Background/aims: Enterococci have been implicated in persistent root canal infections but their role in the infection process remains unclear. This study investigated the virulence, phenotype and genotype of 33 endodontic enterococcal isolates. Methods: Phenotypic tests were conducted for antibiotic resistance, clumping response to pheromone, and production of gelatinase, hemolysin and bacteriocin. Genotype analysis involved polymerase chain reaction amplification of virulence determinants encoding aggregation substances asa and asa373, cytolysin activator cylA, gelatinase gelE, gelatinase-negative phenotype ef1841/fsrC, adherence factors esp and ace, and endocarditis antigen efaA. Physical DNA characterization involved pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of genomic DNA, and plasmid analysis. Results: Potential virulence traits expressed included production of gelatinase by Enterococcus faecalis (n = 23), and response to pheromones in E. faecalis culture filtrate (n = 16). Fourteen strains produced bacteriocin. Five strains were resistant to tetracycline and one to gentamicin, whereas all were susceptible to ampicillin, benzylpenicillin, chloramphenicol, erythromycin, fusidic acid, kanamycin, rifampin, streptomycin and vancomycin. Polymerase chain reaction products encoding efaA, ace, and asa were detected in all isolates; esp was detected in 20 isolates, cylA in six isolates, but asa373 was never detected. The gelatinase gene (gelE) was detected in all isolates of E. faecalis (n = 31) but not in Enterococcus faecium (n = 2); a 23.9 kb deletion sequence corresponding to the gelatinase-negative phenotype was detected in six of the eight E. faecalis isolates that did not produce gelatinase. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and plasmid analyses revealed genetic polymorphism with clonal types evident. Plasmid DNA was detected in 25 strains, with up to four plasmids per strain and a similar (5.1 kb) plasmid occurring in 16 isolates. Conclusions: Phenotypic and genotypic evidence of potential virulence factors were identified in endodontic Enterococcus spp., specifically production of gelatinase and response to pheromones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-19
Number of pages10
JournalOral microbiology and immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Endodontic
  • Enterococcus spp.
  • Genotype
  • Phenotype
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)


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