Resistance to glycopeptide antibiotics in enterococci is due to the synthesis of UDP-MurNAc-tetrapeptide-D-lactate (where Mur is muramic acid) replacing the normal UDP-MurNAc-pentapeptide precursor. The peptidoglycan structures of an inducible VanB-type glycopeptide-resistant Enterococcus faecium, D366, and its constitutively resistant derivative, MT9, were determined. Using HPLC, 17 muropeptides were identified and were present regardless of whether resistance was expressed or not. The structures of 15 muropeptides were determined using MS and amino acid analysis. The cross-bridge between D-alanine and L-lysine consisted of one asparagine. No monomer pentapeptide or tetrapeptide-D-lactate could be identified. These results obtained with D366 (non-induced) and MT9 indicate that, in the absence of vancomycin, the cell wall synthetic machinery of E. faecium can process the lactate-containing precursor as efficiently as the normal pentapeptide. In contrast, the presence of subinhbitory inducing concentrations of vancomycin interfered with the synthesis of oligomers.

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