Polylysogeny is frequently considered to be the result of an adaptive evolutionary process in which prophages confer fitness and/or virulence factors, thus making them important for evolution of both bacterial populations and infectious diseases. The Enterococcus faecalis V583 isolate belongs to the high-risk clonal complex 2 that is particularly well adapted to the hospital environment. Its genome carries 7 prophage-like elements (V583-pp1 to -pp7), one of which is ubiquitous in the species. In this study, we investigated the activity of the V583 prophages and their contribution to E. faecalis biological traits. We systematically analyzed the ability of each prophage to excise from the bacterial chromosome, to replicate and to package its DNA. We also created a set of E. faecalis isogenic strains that lack from one to all six non-ubiquitous prophages by mimicking natural excision. Our work reveals that prophages of E. faecalis V583 excise from the bacterial chromosome in the presence of a fluoroquinolone, and are able to produce active phage progeny. Intricate interactions between V583 prophages were also unveiled: i) pp7, coined EfCIV583 for E. faecalis chromosomal island of V583, hijacks capsids from helper phage 1, leading to the formation of distinct virions, and ii) pp1, pp3 and pp5 inhibit excision of pp4 and pp6. The hijacking exerted by EfCIV583 on helper phage 1 capsids is the first example of molecular piracy in Gram positive bacteria other than staphylococci. Furthermore, prophages encoding platelet-binding-like proteins were found to be involved in adhesion to human platelets, considered as a first step towards the development of infective endocarditis. Our findings reveal not only a role of E. faecalis V583 prophages in pathogenicity, but also provide an explanation for the correlation between antibiotic usage and E. faecalis success as a nosocomial pathogen, as fluoriquinolone may provoke release of prophages and promote gene dissemination among isolates.
Enterococcus faecalis is a member of the core-microbiome of the human gastrointestinal tract. In the last decades however, this bacterial species has emerged as a major cause of hospital-acquired infections worldwide. Some isolates are particularly adapted to the hospital environment, and this adaptation was recently linked with enrichment in mobile genetic elements including prophages, which are chromosomal integrated genomes of bacterial viruses. We characterized the biological prophage activity in an E. faecalis strain of clinical origin that harbors 7 prophages. Six active prophages exhibit intricate interactions, one of which is involved in a molecular piracy phenomenon. We also established, for the first time, a direct correlation between prophage and adhesion to human platelets, an initial step towards infective endocarditis. Finally, we showed that fluoroquinolone increases prophage activity and can thus contribute to horizontal gene spreading. Overall, we provide evidence that prophages are key players in E. faecalis evolution towards pathogenicity.