Group A Streptococcus Transcriptome Dynamics during Growth in Human Blood Reveals Bacterial Adaptive and Survival Strategies

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American Journal of Pathology






American Society for Investigative Pathology

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The molecular basis for bacterial responses to host signals during natural infections is poorly understood. The gram-positive bacterial pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes human mucosal, skin, and life-threatening systemic infections. During the transition from a throat or skin infection to an invasive infection, GAS must adapt to changing environments and host factors. To better understand how GAS adapts, we used transcript profiling and functional analysis to investigate the transcriptome of a wild-type serotype M1 GAS strain in human blood. Global changes in GAS gene expression occur rapidly in response to human blood exposure. Increased transcription was observed for many genes that likely enhance bacterial survival, including those encoding superantigens and host-evasion proteins regulated by a multiple gene activator called Mga. GAS also coordinately expressed genes involved in proteolysis, transport, and catabolism of oligopeptides to obtain amino acids in this protein-rich host environment. Comparison of the transcriptome of the wild-type strain to that of an isogenic deletion mutant ({Delta}covR) mutated in the two-component regulatory system designated CovR-CovS reinforced the hypothesis that CovR-CovS has an important role linking key biosynthetic, catabolic, and virulence functions during transcriptome restructuring. Taken together, the data provide crucial insights into strategies used by pathogenic bacteria for thwarting host defenses and surviving in human blood.