Sortase enzymes are found throughout Gram-positive bacteria and are responsible for the covalent attachment of specific proteins to the cell wall. Through the anchoring of these cell wall proteins, sortase enzymes are important in the ability of several Gram-positive pathogens to cause disease. Previously, deletion of srtA from Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) was shown to disturb the localisation of surface proteins, and decrease bacterial adherence to human pharyngeal cells in vitro. Here we present data demonstrating, for the first time, a role for srtA as a pneumococcal fitness factor in experimental models of pneumonia and bacteraemia. In addition, srtA contributed to nasopharyngeal colonisation in vivo. Furthermore, we find that the contribution of srtA varied between two pneumococcal strains. We show that the known role of srtA in adherence in vitro is dependent on capsule expression, the role of SrtA in adherence to human cells only being apparent in the absence of the pneumococcal capsule. The srtA gene was detected by PCR in all 82 clinical isolates examined and sequencing of the gene from 20 strains showed srtA to be highly conserved. The ubiquitous distribution of srtA was in contrast to the other known pneumococcal sortase genes, srtB, C and D, which were found in only 14 of the 82 tested strains (17%).
- Bacterial Proteins/genetics
- Carrier State/microbiology
- Cysteine Endopeptidases
- Genetic Variation
- Streptococcus pneumoniae/enzymology