CovRS-Regulated Transcriptome Analysis of a Hypervirulent M23 Strain of Group A Streptococcus pyogenes Provides New Insights into Virulence Determinants.
ABSTRACT: The two-component control of virulence (Cov) regulator (R)-sensor (S) (CovRS) regulates the virulence of Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus [GAS]). Inactivation of CovS during infection switches the pathogenicity of GAS to a more invasive form by regulating transcription of diverse virulence genes via CovR. However, the manner in which CovRS controls virulence through expression of extended gene families has not been fully determined. In the current study, the CovS-regulated gene expression profiles of a hypervirulent emm23 GAS strain (M23ND/CovS negative [M23ND/CovS(-)]) and a noninvasive isogenic strain (M23ND/CovS(+)), under different growth conditions, were investigated. RNA sequencing identified altered expression of ∼ 349 genes (18% of the chromosome). The data demonstrated that M23ND/CovS(-) achieved hypervirulence by allowing enhanced expression of genes responsible for antiphagocytosis (e.g., hasABC), by abrogating expression of toxin genes (e.g., speB), and by compromising gene products with dispensable functions (e.g., sfb1). Among these genes, several (e.g., parE and parC) were not previously reported to be regulated by CovRS. Furthermore, the study revealed that CovS also modulated the expression of a broad spectrum of metabolic genes that maximized nutrient utilization and energy metabolism during growth and dissemination, where the bacteria encounter large variations in available nutrients, thus restructuring metabolism of GAS for adaption to diverse growth environments. From constructing a genome-scale metabolic model, we identified 16 nonredundant metabolic gene modules that constitute unique nutrient sources. These genes were proposed to be essential for pathogen growth and are likely associated with GAS virulence. The genome-wide prediction of genes associated with virulence identifies new candidate genes that potentially contribute to GAS virulence.The CovRS system modulates transcription of ∼ 18% of the genes in the Streptococcus pyogenes genome. Mutations that inactivate CovR or CovS enhance the virulence of this bacterium. We determined complete transcriptomes of a naturally CovS-inactivated invasive deep tissue isolate of an emm23 strain of S. pyogenes (M23ND) and its complemented avirulent variant (CovS(+)). We identified diverse virulence genes whose altered expression revealed a genetic switching of a nonvirulent form of M23ND to a highly virulent strain. Furthermore, we also systematically uncovered for the first time the comparative levels of expression of a broad spectrum of metabolic genes, which reflected different metabolic needs of the bacterium as it invaded deeper tissue of the human host.
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: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: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.
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: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: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:Inactivating mutations in the control of virulence two-component regulatory system (covRS) often account for the hypervirulent phenotype in severe, invasive group A streptococcal (GAS) infections. As CovR represses production of the anti-phagocytic hyaluronic acid capsule, high level capsule production is generally considered critical to the hypervirulent phenotype induced by CovRS inactivation. There have recently been large outbreaks of GAS strains lacking capsule, but there are currently no data on the virulence of covRS-mutated, acapsular strains in vivo. We investigated the impact of CovRS inactivation in acapsular serotype M4 strains using a wild-type (M4-SC-1) and a naturally-occurring CovS-inactivated strain (M4-LC-1) that contains an 11bp covS insertion. M4-LC-1 was significantly more virulent in a mouse bacteremia model but caused smaller lesions in a subcutaneous mouse model. Over 10% of the genome showed significantly different transcript levels in M4-LC-1 vs. M4-SC-1 strain. Notably, the Mga regulon and multiple cell surface protein-encoding genes were strongly upregulated-a finding not observed for CovS-inactivated, encapsulated M1 or M3 GAS strains. Consistent with the transcriptomic data, transmission electron microscopy revealed markedly altered cell surface morphology of M4-LC-1 compared to M4-SC-1. Insertional inactivation of covS in M4-SC-1 recapitulated the transcriptome and cell surface morphology. Analysis of the cell surface following CovS-inactivation revealed that the upregulated proteins were part of the Mga regulon. Inactivation of mga in M4-LC-1 reduced transcript levels of multiple cell surface proteins and reversed the cell surface alterations consistent with the effect of CovS inactivation on cell surface composition being mediated by Mga. CovRS-inactivating mutations were detected in 20% of current invasive serotype M4 strains in the United States. Thus, we discovered that hypervirulent M4 GAS strains with covRS mutations can arise in an acapsular background and that such hypervirulence is associated with profound alteration of the cell surface.
Project description:In the group A streptococcus (GAS; Streptococcus pyogenes), a two-component system known as CovRS (or CsrRS) regulates about 15% of the genes, including several important virulence factors like the hyaluronic acid capsule. Most of these genes, including covR itself, are negatively regulated by CovR. We have isolated two independent ISS1 insertions in an open reading frame (ORF) that increases CovR expression as measured by a Pcov-gusA reporter fusion in single copy in the GAS chromosome. This ORF, named rocA for "regulator of Cov," activates covR transcription about threefold. As expected, a rocA mutant is mucoid and produces more transcript from the has promoter since this promoter is repressed by CovR. This effect is dependent on the presence of a wild-type covR gene. In contrast to its activation of Pcov, RocA negatively regulates its own expression. This autoregulation is not dependent on the presence of the covR gene. All the phenotypes of the rocA mutant were complemented by the presence of the rocA gene on a plasmid. The rocA gene is present in strains of all nine M serotypes of GAS tested and is absent from strains representing 11 other groups of streptococci and related bacteria, including strains of the closely related group C and G streptococci. It seems likely that rocA plays an important role in the pathogenesis of GAS since it affects expression of the global regulator CovR.
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.