Methylome-dependent transformation of emm1 group A streptococci

Joana Alves, Joshua Rand, Alix Johnston, Connor Bowen, Nicola Lynskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Genetic intractability presents a fundamental barrier to the manipulation of bacteria, hindering advancements in microbiological research. Group A Streptococcus (GAS), a lethal human pathogen currently associated with an unprecedented surge of infections worldwide, exhibits poor genetic tractability attributed to the activity of a conserved type 1 restriction modification system (RMS). RMS detect and cleave specific target sequences in foreign DNA that are protected in host DNA by sequence-specific methylation. Overcoming this "restriction barrier" thus presents a major technical challenge. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that different RMS variants expressed by GAS give rise to genotype-specific and methylome-dependent variation in transformation efficiency. Furthermore, we show that the magnitude of impact of methylation on transformation efficiency elicited by RMS variant TRD AG, encoded by all sequenced strains of the dominant and upsurge-associated emm1 genotype, is 100-fold greater than for all other TRD tested and is responsible for the poor transformation efficiency associated with this lineage. In dissecting the underlying mechanism, we developed an improved GAS transformation protocol, whereby the restriction barrier is overcome by the addition of the phage anti-restriction protein Ocr. This protocol is highly effective for TRD AG strains including clinical isolates representing all emm1 lineages and will expedite critical research interrogating the genetics of emm1 GAS, negating the need to work in an RMS-negative background. These findings provide a striking example of the impact of RMS target sequence variation on bacterial transformation and the importance of defining lineage-specific mechanisms of genetic recalcitrance. IMPORTANCE Understanding the mechanisms by which bacterial pathogens are able to cause disease is essential to enable the targeted development of novel therapeutics. A key experimental approach to facilitate this research is the generation of bacterial mutants, through either specific gene deletions or sequence manipulation. This process relies on the ability to transform bacteria with exogenous DNA designed to generate the desired sequence changes. Bacteria have naturally developed protective mechanisms to detect and destroy invading DNA, and these systems severely impede the genetic manipulation of many important pathogens, including the lethal human pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS). Many GAS lineages exist, of which emm1 is dominant among clinical isolates. Based on new experimental evidence, we identify the mechanism by which transformation is impaired in the emm1 lineage and establish an improved and highly efficient transformation protocol to expedite the generation of mutants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0079823
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Early online date10 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • bacterial transformation
  • restriction modification system
  • group A Streptococcus


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