CovS inactivates CovR and is required for growth under conditions of general stress in Streptococcus pyogenes.
ABSTRACT: The gram-positive human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus [GAS]) causes diseases ranging from mild and often self-limiting infections of the skin or throat to invasive and life-threatening illnesses. To cause such diverse types of disease, the GAS must be able to sense adverse environments and regulate its gene expression accordingly. The CovR/S two-component signal transduction regulatory system in GAS represses about 15% of the GAS genome, including many genes involved in virulence, in response to the environment. We report that CovR is still able to repress transcription from several promoters in the absence of the putative histidine kinase sensor for this system, CovS. We also show that a phosphorylation site mutant (D53A) of CovR is unable to repress gene expression. In addition, we report that a strain with a nonpolar mutation in CovS does not grow at a low pH, elevated temperature, or high osmolarity. The stress-related phenotypes of the CovS mutant were complemented by expression of covS from a plasmid. Selection for growth of a CovS mutant under stress conditions resulted in isolation of second-site mutations that inactivated covR, indicating that CovR and CovS act in the same pathway. Also, at 40 degrees C in the wild-type strain, CovR appeared to be less active on the promoter tested, which is consistent with the hypothesis that it was partially inactivated by CovS. We suggest that under mild stress conditions, CovS inactivates CovR, either directly or indirectly, and that this inactivation relieves repression of many GAS genes, including the genes needed for growth of GAS under stress conditions and some genes that are necessary for virulence. Growth of many gram-positive bacteria under multiple-stress conditions requires alteration of promoter recognition produced by RNA polymerase association with the general stress response sigma factor, sigma(B). We provide evidence that for GAS, which lacks a sigB ortholog, growth under stress conditions requires the CovR/S two-component regulatory system instead. This two-component system in GAS thus appears to perform a function for which other gram-positive bacteria utilize an alternative sigma factor.
Project description:We sought to determine how CovRS mutations varying CovR phosphorylation levels affect the gene expression profile of group A streptococcus Overall design: There were 8 strains analyzed, each in quadruplicate replicates: 1) wild-type GAS serotype M1; 2) covS-E281A GAS serotype M1; 3) covS-T284A GAS serotype M1 4) covR-D53A GAS serotypep M1; 5) wild-type GAS serotype M3; 6) covS-E281A GAS serotype M3; 7.) covS-T284A GAS serotype M1; 8.) covR-D53A GAS serotypep M3
Project description:Phosphorylation relays are a major mechanism by which bacteria alter transcription in response to environmental signals, but understanding of the functional consequences of bacterial response regulator phosphorylation is limited. We sought to characterize how phosphorylation of the control of virulence regulator (CovR) protein from the major human pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS) influences GAS global gene expression and pathogenesis. CovR mainly serves to repress GAS virulence factor-encoding genes and has been shown to homodimerize following phosphorylation on aspartate-53 (D53) in vitro. We discovered that CovR is phosphorylated in vivo and that such phosphorylation is partially heat-stable, suggesting additional phosphorylation at non-aspartate residues. Using mass spectroscopy along with targeted mutagenesis, we identified threonine-65 (T65) as an additional CovR phosphorylation site under control of the serine/threonine kinase (Stk). Phosphorylation on T65, as mimicked by the recombinant CovR T65E variant, abolished in vitro CovR D53 phosphorylation. Similarly, isoallelic GAS strains that were either unable to be phosphorylated at D53 (CovR-D53A) or had functional constitutive phosphorylation at T65 (CovR-T65E) had essentially an identical gene repression profile to each other and to a CovR-inactivated strain. However, the CovR-D53A and CovR-T65E isoallelic strains retained the ability to positively influence gene expression that was abolished in the CovR-inactivated strain. Consistent with these observations, the CovR-D53A and CovR-T65E strains were hypervirulent compared to the CovR-inactivated strain in a mouse model of invasive GAS disease. Surprisingly, an isoalleic strain unable to be phosphorylated at CovR T65 (CovR-T65A) was hypervirulent compared to the wild-type strain, as auto-regulation of covR gene expression resulted in lower covR gene transcript and CovR protein levels in the CovR-T65A strain. Taken together, these data establish that CovR is phosphorylated in vivo and elucidate how the complex interplay between CovR D53 activating phosphorylation, T65 inhibiting phosphorylation, and auto-regulation impacts streptococcal host-pathogen interaction.
Project description:The ability of Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus [GAS]) to respond to changes in environmental conditions is essential for this gram-positive organism to successfully cause disease in its human host. The two-component system CovRS controls expression of about 15% of the GAS genome either directly or indirectly. In most operons studied, CovR acts as a repressor. We previously linked CovRS to the GAS stress response by showing that the sensor kinase CovS is required to inactivate the response regulator CovR so that GAS can grow under conditions of heat, acid, and salt stress. Here, we sought to identify CovR-repressed genes that are required for growth under stress. To do this, global transcription profiles were analyzed by microarrays following exposure to increased temperature (40 degrees C) and decreased pH (pH 6.0). The CovR regulon in an M type 6 strain of GAS was also examined by global transcriptional analysis. We identified a gene, rscA (regulated by stress and Cov), whose transcription was confirmed to be repressed by CovR and activated by heat and acid. RscA is a member of the MDR1 family of ABC transporters, and we found that it is required for growth of GAS at 40 degrees C but not at pH 6.0. Thus, for GAS to grow at 40 degrees C, CovR repression must be alleviated so that rscA can be transcribed to allow the production of this potential exporter. Possible explanations for the thermoprotective role of RscA in this pathogen are discussed.
Project description:Streptococcus mutans, the primary aetiological agent of dental caries, is one of the major bacteria of the human oral cavity. The pathogenicity of this bacterium is attributed not only to the expression of virulence factors, but also to its ability to respond and adapt rapidly to the ever-changing conditions of the oral cavity. The two-component signal transduction system (TCS) CovR/S plays a crucial role in virulence and stress response in many streptococci. Surprisingly, in S. mutans the response regulator CovR appears to be an orphan, as the cognate sensor kinase, CovS, is absent in all the strains. We found that acetyl phosphate, an intracellular phosphodonor molecule known to act in signalling, might play a role in CovR phosphorylation in vivo. We also found that in vitro, upon phosphorylation by potassium phosphoramide (a high-energy phophodonor) CovR formed a dimer and showed altered electrophoretic mobility. As expected, we found that the conserved aspartic acid residue at position 53 (D53) was the site of phosphorylation, since neither phosphorylation nor dimerization was seen when an alanine-substituted CovR mutant (D53A) was used. Surprisingly, we found that the ability of CovR to act as a transcriptional regulator does not depend upon its phosphorylation status, since the D53A mutant behaved similarly to the wild-type protein in both in vivo and in vitro DNA-binding assays. This unique phosphorylation-mediated inhibition of CovR function in S. mutans sheds light on an unconventional mechanism of the signal transduction pathway.
Project description:The control of the virulence response regulator and sensor (CovR-CovS) two-component regulatory system in group A Streptococcus (GAS) strains regulates more than 15% of gene expression and has critical roles in invasive GAS infection. The membrane-embedded CovS has kinase and phosphatase activities, and both are required for modulating the phosphorylation level of CovR. Regulator of Cov (RocA) is a positive regulator of covR and also been shown to be a pseudokinase that interacts with CovS to enhance the phosphorylation level of CovR; however, how RocA modulates the activity of CovS has not been determined conclusively. Although the phosphorylation level of CovR was decreased in the rocA mutant in the exponential phase, the present study shows that phosphorylated CovR in the rocA mutant increased to levels similar to those in the wild-type strain in the stationary phase of growth. In addition, acidic stress, which is generally present in the stationary phase, enhanced the phosphorylation level of CovR in the rocA mutant. The phosphorylation levels of CovR in the CovS phosphatase-inactivated mutant and its rocA mutant were similar under acidic stress and Mg2+ (the signal that inhibits CovS phosphatase activity) treatments, suggesting that the phosphatase activity, but not the kinase activity, of CovS is required for RocA to modulate CovR phosphorylation. The phosphorylation level of CovR is crucial for GAS strains to regulate virulence factor expression; therefore, the growth phase- and pH-dependent RocA activity would contribute significantly to GAS pathogenesis.IMPORTANCE The emergence of invasive group A streptococcal infections has been reported worldwide. Clinical isolates that have spontaneous mutations or a truncated allele of the rocA gene (e.g., emm3-type isolates) are considered to be more virulent than isolates with the intact rocA gene (e.g., emm1-type isolates). RocA is a positive regulator of covR and has been shown to enhance the phosphorylation level of intracellular CovR regulator through the functional CovS protein. CovS is the membrane-embedded sensor and modulates the phosphorylation level of CovR by its kinase and phosphatase activities. The present study shows that the enhancement of CovR phosphorylation is mediated via the repression of CovS's phosphatase activity by RocA. In addition, we found that RocA acts dominantly on modulating CovR phosphorylation under neutral pH conditions and in the exponential phase of growth. The phosphorylation level of CovR is crucial for group A Streptococcus species to regulate virulence factor expression and is highly related to bacterial invasiveness; therefore, growth phase- and pH-dependent RocA activity and the sequence polymorphisms of rocA gene would contribute significantly to bacterial phenotype variations and pathogenesis.
Project description:The group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes diseases that range from mild (e.g. pharyngitis) to severely invasive (e.g. necrotizing fasciitis). Strain- and serotype-specific differences influence the ability of isolates to cause individual diseases. At the center of this variability is the CovR/S two-component system and the accessory protein RocA. Through incompletely defined mechanisms, CovR/S and RocA repress the expression of more than a dozen immunomodulatory virulence factors. Alleviation of this repression is selected for during invasive infections, leading to the recovery of covR, covS or rocA mutant strains. Here, we investigated how RocA promotes CovR/S activity, identifying that RocA is a pseudokinase that interacts with CovS. Disruption of CovS kinase or phosphatase activities abolishes RocA function, consistent with RocA acting through the modulation of CovS activity. We also identified, in conflict with a previous study, that the RocA regulon includes the secreted protease-encoding gene speB. Finally, we discovered an inverse correlation between the virulence of wild-type, rocA mutant, covS mutant and covR mutant strains during invasive infection and their fitness in an ex vivo upper respiratory tract model. Our data inform on mechanisms that control GAS disease potential and provide an explanation for observed strain- and serotype-specific variability in RocA function.
Project description:To colonize and cause disease at distinct anatomical sites, bacterial pathogens must tailor gene expression in a microenvironment-specific manner. The molecular mechanisms that control the ability of the human bacterial pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS) to transition between infection sites have yet to be fully elucidated. A key regulator of GAS virulence gene expression is the CovR-CovS two-component regulatory system (also known as CsrR-CsrS). covR and covS mutant strains arise spontaneously during invasive infections and, in in vivo models of infection, rapidly become dominant. Here, we compared wild-type GAS with covR, covS, and covRS isogenic mutant strains to investigate the heterogeneity in the types of natural mutations that occur in covR and covS and the phenotypic consequences of covR or covS mutation. We found that the response regulator CovR retains some regulatory function in the absence of CovS and that CovS modulates CovR to significantly enhance repression of one group of genes (e.g., the speA, hasA, and ska genes) while it reduces repression of a second group of genes (e.g., the speB, grab, and spd3 genes). We also found that different in vivo-induced covR mutations can lead to strikingly different transcriptomes. While covS mutant strains show increased virulence in several invasive models of infection, we determined that these mutants are significantly outcompeted by wild-type GAS during growth in human saliva, an ex vivo model of upper respiratory tract infection. We propose that CovS-mediated regulation of CovR activity plays an important role in the ability of GAS to cycle between pharyngeal and invasive infections.
Project description:Two-component gene regulatory systems (TCSs) are a major mechanism by which bacteria respond to environmental stimuli and thus are critical to infectivity. For example, the control of virulence regulator/sensor kinase (CovRS) TCS is central to the virulence of the major human pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS). Here, we used a combination of quantitative in vivo phosphorylation assays, isoallelic strains that varied by only a single amino acid in CovS, and transcriptome analyses to characterize the impact of CovS on CovR phosphorylation and GAS global gene expression. We discovered that CovS primarily serves to phosphorylate CovR, thereby resulting in the repression of virulence factor-encoding genes. However, a GAS strain selectively deficient in CovS phosphatase activity had a distinct transcriptome relative to that of its parental strain, indicating that both CovS kinase and phosphatase activities influence the CovR phosphorylation status. Surprisingly, compared to a serotype M3 strain, serotype M1 GAS strains had high levels of phosphorylated CovR, low transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes, and strikingly different responses to environmental cues. Moreover, the inactivation of CovS in the serotype M1 background resulted in a greater decrease in phosphorylated CovR levels and a greater increase in the transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes than did CovS inactivation in a serotype M3 strain. These data clarify the influence of CovS on the CovR phosphorylation status and provide insight into why serotype M1 GAS strains have high rates of spontaneous mutations in covS during invasive GAS infection, thus providing a link between TCS molecular function and the epidemiology of deadly bacterial infections.
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:The control of virulence regulator/sensor kinase (CovRS) two-component system is critical to the infectivity of group A streptococcus (GAS), and CovRS inactivating mutations are frequently observed in GAS strains causing severe human infections. CovS modulates the phosphorylation status and with it the regulatory effect of its cognate regulator CovR via its kinase and phosphatase activity. However, the contribution of each aspect of CovS function to GAS pathogenesis is unknown. We created isoallelic GAS strains that differ only by defined mutations which either abrogate CovR phosphorylation, CovS kinase or CovS phosphatase activity in order to test the contribution of CovR phosphorylation levels to GAS virulence, emergence of hypervirulent CovS-inactivated strains during infection, and GAS global gene expression. These sets of strains were created in both serotype M1 and M3 backgrounds, two prevalent GAS disease-causing serotypes, to ascertain whether our observations were serotype-specific. In both serotypes, GAS strains lacking CovS phosphatase activity (CovS-T284A) were profoundly impaired in their ability to cause skin infection or colonize the oropharynx in mice and to survive neutrophil killing in human blood. Further, response to the human cathelicidin LL-37 was abrogated. Hypervirulent GAS isolates harboring inactivating CovRS mutations were not recovered from mice infected with M1 strain M1-CovS-T284A and only sparsely recovered from mice infected with M3 strain M3-CovS-T284A late in the infection course. Consistent with our virulence data, transcriptome analyses revealed increased repression of a broad array of virulence genes in the CovS phosphatase deficient strains, including the genes encoding the key anti-phagocytic M protein and its positive regulator Mga, which are not typically part of the CovRS transcriptome. Taken together, these data establish a key role for CovS phosphatase activity in GAS pathogenesis and suggest that CovS phosphatase activity could be a promising therapeutic target in GAS without promoting emergence of hypervirulent CovS-inactivated strains.