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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Role of streptococcal T antigens in superficial skin infection.

FCT region genes of Streptococcus pyogenes encode surface proteins that include fibronectin- and collagen-binding proteins and the serological markers known as T antigens, some of which give rise to pilus-like appendages. It remains to be established whether FCT region surface proteins contribute to virulence by in vivo models of infection. In this study, a highly sensitive and ecologically relevant humanized mouse model was used to measure superficial skin infection. Three genes encoding FCT region surface proteins essential for T-serotype specificity were inactivated. Both the Deltacpa and DeltaprtF2 mutants were highly attenuated for virulence when topically applied to the skin following exponential growth but were fully virulent when delivered in stationary phase. In contrast, the DeltafctA mutant was virulent at the skin, regardless of its initial growth state. Immunoblots of cell extracts revealed anti-FctA-reactive, ladder-like polymers characteristic of streptococcal pili. In addition, FctA formed a heteropolymer with the putative collagen-binding protein Cpa. The DeltafctA mutant showed a loss in anti-Cpa-reactive polymers, whereas anti-FctA-reactive polymers were reduced in the Deltacpa mutant. The findings suggest that both FctA and Cpa are required for pilus formation, but importantly, an intact pilus is not essential for Cpa-mediated virulence. Although it is an integral part of the T-antigen complex, the fibronectin- binding protein PrtF2 is not covalently linked to the FctA- and Cpa-containing heteropolymer derived from cell extracts. The data provide direct evidence that streptococcal T antigens function as virulence factors in vivo, but they also reveal that a pilus-like structure is not essential for the most common form of streptococcal skin disease.[1]


  1. Role of streptococcal T antigens in superficial skin infection. Lizano, S., Luo, F., Bessen, D.E. J. Bacteriol. (2007) [Pubmed]
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