Human disease isolates of serotype m4 and m22 group a streptococcus lack genes required for hyaluronic acid capsule biosynthesis.
ABSTRACT: UNLABELLED:Group A streptococcus (GAS) causes human pharyngitis and invasive infections and frequently colonizes individuals asymptomatically. Many lines of evidence generated over decades have shown that the hyaluronic acid capsule is a major virulence factor contributing to these infections. While conducting a whole-genome analysis of the in vivo molecular genetic changes that occur in GAS during longitudinal human pharyngeal interaction, we discovered that serotypes M4 and M22 GAS strains lack the hasABC genes necessary for hyaluronic acid capsule biosynthesis. Using targeted PCR, we found that all 491 temporally and geographically diverse disease isolates of these two serotypes studied lack the hasABC genes. Consistent with the lack of capsule synthesis genes, none of the strains produced detectable hyaluronic acid. Despite the lack of a hyaluronic acid capsule, all strains tested multiplied extensively ex vivo in human blood. Thus, counter to the prevailing concept in GAS pathogenesis research, strains of these two serotypes do not require hyaluronic acid to colonize the upper respiratory tract or cause abundant mucosal or invasive human infections. We speculate that serotype M4 and M22 GAS have alternative, compensatory mechanisms that promote virulence. IMPORTANCE:A century of study of the antiphagocytic hyaluronic acid capsule made by group A streptococcus has led to the concept that it is a major virulence factor contributing to human pharyngeal and invasive infections. However, the discovery that some strains that cause abundant human infections lack hyaluronic acid biosynthetic genes and fail to produce this capsule provides a new stimulus for research designed to understand the group A streptococcus factors contributing to pharyngeal infection and invasive disease episodes.
Project description:A recent analysis of group A Streptococcus (GAS) invasive infections in Australia has shown a predominance of M4 GAS, a serotype recently reported to lack the antiphagocytic hyaluronic acid (HA) capsule. Here, we use molecular genetics and bioinformatics techniques to characterize 17 clinical M4 isolates associated with invasive disease in children during this recent epidemiology. All M4 isolates lacked HA capsule, and whole genome sequence analysis of two isolates revealed the complete absence of the hasABC capsule biosynthesis operon. Conversely, M4 isolates possess a functional HA-degrading hyaluronate lyase (HylA) enzyme that is rendered nonfunctional in other GAS through a point mutation. Transformation with a plasmid expressing hasABC restored partial encapsulation in wild-type (WT) M4 GAS, and full encapsulation in an isogenic M4 mutant lacking HylA. However, partial encapsulation reduced binding to human complement regulatory protein C4BP, did not enhance survival in whole human blood, and did not increase virulence of WT M4 GAS in a mouse model of systemic infection. Bioinformatics analysis found no hasABC homologs in closely related species, suggesting that this operon was a recent acquisition. These data showcase a mutually exclusive interaction of HA capsule and active HylA among strains of this leading human pathogen.
Project description:The bacterial pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes human diseases ranging from self-limiting pharyngitis (also known as strep throat) to severely invasive necrotizing fasciitis (also known as the flesh-eating syndrome). To control virulence factor expression, GAS utilizes both protein- and RNA-based mechanisms of regulation. Here we report that the transcription factor RivR (RofA-like protein IV) negatively regulates the abundance of mRNAs encoding the hyaluronic acid capsule biosynthesis proteins (hasABC; ?7-fold) and the protein G-related ?(2)-macroglobulin-binding protein (grab; ?29-fold). Our data differ significantly from those of a previous study of the RivR regulon. Given that grab and hasABC are also negatively regulated by the two-component system CovR/S (control of virulence), we tested whether RivR functions through CovR/S. A comparison of riv and cov single and double mutant strains showed that RivR requires CovR activity for grab and hasABC regulation. Analysis of the upstream region of rivR identified a novel promoter the deletion of which reduced rivR mRNA abundance by 70%. A rivR mutant strain had a reduced ability to adhere to human keratinocytes relative to that of the parental and complemented strains, a phenotype that was abolished upon GAS pretreatment with hyaluronidase, highlighting the importance of capsule regulation by RivR during colonization. The rivR mutant strain was also attenuated for virulence in a murine model of bacteremia infection. Thus, we identify RivR as an important regulator of GAS virulence and provide new insight into the regulatory networks controlling virulence factor production in this pathogen.
Project description:Enzymes directing the biosynthesis of the group A streptococcal hyaluronic acid capsule are encoded in the hasABC gene cluster. Inactivation of hasC, encoding UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase in the heavily encapsulated group A streptococcal strain 87-282, had no effect on capsule production, indicating that hasC is not required for hyaluronic acid synthesis and that an alternative source of UDP-glucose is available for capsule production. Nucleotide sequence and deletion mutation analysis of the 5.5 kb of DNA upstream of hasA revealed that this region is not required for capsule expression. Many (10 of 23) group A streptococcal strains were found to contain insertion element IS1239' approximately 50 nucleotides upstream of the -35 site of the hasA promoter. The presence of IS1239' upstream of hasA did not prevent capsule expression. These results elucidate the molecular architecture of the group A streptococcal chromosomal region upstream of the has operon, indicate that hasABC are the sole components of the capsule gene cluster, and demonstrate that hasAB are sufficient to direct capsule synthesis in group A streptococci.
Project description:The hyaluronic acid capsule of Streptococcus uberis has been implicated in conferring resistance to phagocytosis by bovine neutrophils. Construction of a bank of random insertion mutants of S. uberis (strain 0140J) was achieved using the pGh9::ISS1 mutagenesis system (22). Phenotypic screening of approximately 5,000 clones enabled the isolation of 11 acapsular mutants. Southern hybridization indicated that two mutants carried a lesion within a group of genes similar to those involved in the assembly of the hyaluronic acid capsule found in the group A Streptococcus (GAS) has operon. The DNA sequence flanking the points of insertion confirmed the presence of homologues of GAS hasA and hasB in S. uberis. The DNA sequence flanking the ISS1 insertion in another mutant identified a homologue of hasC in S. uberis. The GAS hasABC operon structure was not conserved in S. uberis, and two discrete loci comprising homologues of either hasAB or hasC were identified. Disruption of S. uberis hasA or hasC resulted in the complete cessation of hyaluronic acid capsule production. Correspondingly, these mutants were found to have lost their resistance to phagocytosis by bovine neutrophils. The bactericidal action of bovine neutrophils on S. uberis 0140J was shown unequivocally to depend upon the capsule status of the bacterium.
Project description:The important human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus [GAS]) produces a hyaluronic acid (HA) capsule that plays critical roles in immune evasion. Previous studies showed that the hasABC operon encoding the capsule biosynthesis enzymes is under the control of a single promoter, P1, which is negatively regulated by the two-component regulatory system CovR/S. In this work, we characterize the sequence upstream of P1 and identify a novel regulatory region controlling transcription of the capsule biosynthesis operon in the M1 serotype strain MGAS2221. This region consists of a promoter, P2, which initiates transcription of a novel small RNA, HasS, an intrinsic transcriptional terminator that inefficiently terminates HasS, permitting read-through transcription of hasABC, and a putative promoter which lies upstream of P2. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays, quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, and transcriptional reporter data identified CovR as a negative regulator of P2. We found that the P1 and P2 promoters are completely repressed by CovR, and capsule expression is regulated by the putative promoter upstream of P2. Deletion of hasS or of the terminator eliminates CovR-binding sequences, relieving repression and increasing read-through, hasA transcription, and capsule production. Sequence analysis of 44 GAS genomes revealed a high level of polymorphism in the HasS sequence region. Most of the HasS variations were located in the terminator sequences, suggesting that this region is under strong selective pressure. We discovered that the terminator deletion mutant is highly resistant to neutrophil-mediated killing and is significantly more virulent in a mouse model of GAS invasive disease than the wild-type strain. Together, these results are consistent with the naturally occurring mutations in this region modulating GAS virulence.
Project description:Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus [GAS]) is an important human pathogen causing a broad spectrum of diseases and associated with significant global morbidity and mortality. Almost all GAS isolates express a surface hyaluronic acid capsule, a virulence determinant that facilitates host colonization and impedes phagocyte killing. However, recent epidemiologic surveillance has reported a sustained increase in both mucosal and invasive infections caused by nonencapsulated GAS, which questions the indispensable role of hyaluronic acid capsule in GAS pathogenesis. In this study, we found that pilus of M4 GAS not only significantly promotes biofilm formation, adherence, and cytotoxicity to human upper respiratory tract epithelial cells and keratinocytes, but also promotes survival in human whole blood and increased virulence in murine models of invasive infection. T4 antigen, the pilus backbone protein of M4 GAS, binds haptoglobin, an abundant human acute-phase protein upregulated upon infection and inflammation, on the bacterial surface. Haptoglobin sequestration reduces the susceptibility of nonencapsulated M4 GAS to antimicrobial peptides released from activated neutrophils and platelets. Our results reveal a previously unappreciated virulence-promoting role of M4 GAS pili, in part mediated by co-opting the biology of haptoglobin to mitigate host antimicrobial defenses.IMPORTANCE Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a strict human pathogen causing more than 700 million infections globally each year. The majority of the disease-causing GAS are encapsulated, which greatly guarantees survival and dissemination in the host. Emergence of the capsule-negative GAS, such as M4 GAS, in recent epidemiologic surveillance alarms the necessity to elucidate the virulence determinants of these pathogens. Here, we found that M4 pili play an important role in promoting M4 GAS adherence and cytotoxicity to human pharyngeal epithelial cells and keratinocytes. The same molecule also significantly enhanced M4 GAS survival and replication in human whole blood and experimental murine infection. T4 antigen, which composes the backbone of M4 pili, was able to sequester the very abundant serum protein haptoglobin to further confer M4 GAS resistance to antibacterial substances released by neutrophils and platelets.
Project description:Group A streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes or GAS) freshly isolated from individuals with streptococcal sore throat or invasive ("flesh-eating") infection often grow as mucoid colonies on primary culture but lose this colony appearance after laboratory passage. The mucoid phenotype is due to abundant production of the hyaluronic acid capsular polysaccharide, a key virulence determinant associated with severe GAS infections. These observations suggest that signal(s) from the human host trigger increased production of capsule and perhaps other virulence factors during infection. Here we show that subinhibitory concentrations of the human antimicrobial cathelicidin peptide LL-37 stimulate expression of the GAS capsule synthesis operon (hasABC). Up-regulation is mediated by the CsrRS 2-component regulatory system: it requires a functional CsrS sensor protein and can be antagonized by increased extracellular Mg(2+), the other identified environmental signal for CsrS. Up-regulation was also evident for other CsrRS-regulated virulence genes, including the IL-8 protease PrtS/ScpC and the integrin-like/IgG protease Mac/IdeS, findings that suggest a coordinated GAS virulence response elicited by this antimicrobial immune effector peptide. LL-37 signaling through CsrRS led to a marked increase in GAS resistance to opsonophagocytic killing by human leukocytes, an in vitro measure of enhanced GAS virulence, consistent with increased expression of the antiphagocytic capsular polysaccharide and Mac/IdeS. We propose that the human cathelicidin LL-37 has the paradoxical effect of stimulating CsrRS-regulated virulence gene expression, thereby enhancing GAS pathogenicity during infection. The ability of GAS to sense and respond to LL-37 may explain, at least in part, the unique susceptibility of the human species to streptococcal infection.
Project description:The frequency at which the genes responsible for capsule biosynthesis occurred in field isolates of Streptococcus uberis was determined. Of the two genotypes detected (hasABC and hasC), the capsular genotype (hasABC) was more common. This genotype was present at a higher frequency in a population isolated from mastitis cases than in a population isolated from cattle bedding. The virulence of a mutant strain of S. uberis (TRF0-6) that lacked the ability to produce a hyaluronic acid capsule due to an insertion within its single copy of hasA (P. N. Ward, T. R. Field, W. G. F. Ditcham, E. Maguin, and J. A. Leigh, Infect. Immun. 69:392-399, 2001) was compared to that of the capsular parental strain (0140J). Strains TRF0-6 and 0140J infected all mammary gland quarters following experimental challenge. The wild type and the mutant induced overt signs of disease in four out of four and in six out of eight mammary gland quarters, respectively. Both the wild type and the hasA mutant were resistant to killing by bovine neutrophils following cultivation in bovine milk. The ability to withstand the bactericidal action of neutrophils following growth in milk was therefore independent of the capsule and coincided with the ability of supernatants from such cultures to prevent the bactericidal action of neutrophils. This investigation revealed that, in the absence of the capsule, S. uberis is able to withstand the bactericidal effect of bovine neutrophils and induce mastitis in dairy cows.
Project description:A skin-tropic invasive group A Streptococcus pyogenes (GAS) strain, AP53, contains a natural inactivating mutation in the covS gene (covS(M)) of the two-component responder (CovR)/sensor (CovS) gene regulatory system. The effects of this mutation on specific GAS virulence determinants have been assessed, with emphasis on expression of the extracellular protease, streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B (SpeB), capsular hyaluronic acid, and proteins that allow host plasmin assembly on the bacterial surface, viz. a high affinity plasminogen (Pg)/plasmin receptor, Pg-binding group A streptococcal M protein (PAM), and the human Pg activator streptokinase. To further illuminate mechanisms of the functioning of CovRS in the virulence of AP53, two AP53 isogenic strains were generated, one in which the natural covS(M) gene was mutated to WT-covS (AP53/covS(WT)) and a strain that contained an inactivated covR gene (AP53/?covR). Two additional strains that do not contain PAM, viz. WT-NS931 and NS931/covS(M), were also employed. SpeB was not measurably expressed in strains containing covR(WT)/covS(M), whereas in strains with natural or engineered covR(WT)/covS(WT), SpeB expression was highly up-regulated. Alternatively, capsule synthesis via the hasABC operon was enhanced in strain AP53/covS(M), whereas streptokinase expression was only slightly affected by the covS inactivation. PAM expression was not substantially influenced by the covS mutation, suggesting that covRS had minimal effects on the mga regulon that controls PAM expression. These results demonstrate that a covS inactivation results in virulence gene alterations and also suggest that the CovR phosphorylation needed for gene up- or down-regulation can occur by alternative pathways to CovS kinase.
Project description:Group A streptococcal isolates of serotype M18 are historically associated with epidemic waves of pharyngitis and the non-suppurative immune sequela rheumatic fever. The serotype is defined by a unique, highly encapsulated phenotype, yet the molecular basis for this unusual colony morphology is unknown. Here we identify a truncation in the regulatory protein RocA, unique to and conserved within our serotype M18 GAS collection, and demonstrate that it underlies the characteristic M18 capsule phenotype. Reciprocal allelic exchange mutagenesis of rocA between M18 GAS and M89 GAS demonstrated that truncation of RocA was both necessary and sufficient for hyper-encapsulation via up-regulation of both precursors required for hyaluronic acid synthesis. Although RocA was shown to positively enhance covR transcription, quantitative proteomics revealed RocA to be a metabolic regulator with activity beyond the CovR/S regulon. M18 GAS demonstrated a uniquely protuberant chain formation following culture on agar that was dependent on excess capsule and the RocA mutation. Correction of the M18 rocA mutation reduced GAS survival in human blood, and in vivo naso-pharyngeal carriage longevity in a murine model, with an associated drop in bacterial airborne transmission during infection. In summary, a naturally occurring truncation in a regulator explains the encapsulation phenotype, carriage longevity and transmissibility of M18 GAS, highlighting the close interrelation of metabolism, capsule and virulence.