Completion of the genome sequence of Streptococcus sanguinis SK36 necessitates tools for further characterization of this species. It is often desirable to insert antibiotic resistance markers and other exogenous genes into the chromosome; therefore, we sought to identify a chromosomal site for ectopic expression of foreign genes, and to verify that insertion into this site did not affect important cellular phenotypes. We designed three plasmid constructs for insertion of erm, aad9 or tetM resistance determinants into a genomic region encoding only a small (65 aa) hypothetical protein. To determine whether this insertion affected important cellular properties, SK36 and its erythromycin-resistant derivative, JFP36, were compared for: (i) growth in vitro, (ii) genetic competence, (iii) biofilm formation and (iv) virulence for endocarditis in the rabbit model of infective endocarditis (IE). The spectinomycin-resistant strain, JFP56, and tetracycline-resistant strain, JFP76, were also tested for virulence in vivo. Insertion of erm did not affect growth, competence or biofilm development of JFP36. Recovery of bacteria from heart valves of coinoculated rabbits was similar to wild-type for JFP36, JFP56 and JFP76, indicating that IE virulence was not significantly affected. The capacity for mutant complementation in vivo was explored in an avirulent ssaB mutant background. Expression of ssaB from its predicted promoter in the target region restored IE virulence. Thus, the chromosomal site utilized is a good candidate for further manipulations of S. sanguinis. In addition, the resistant strains developed may be further applied as controls to facilitate screening for virulence factors in vivo.
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