Streptococcus pyogenes is a leading cause of pharyngeal infection, with an estimated 616 million cases per year. The human nasopharynx represents the major reservoir for all S. pyogenes infection, including severe invasive disease. To investigate bacterial and host factors that influence S. pyogenes infection, we have devised an improved murine model of nasopharyngeal colonization, with an optimized dosing volume to avoid fulminant infections and a sensitive host strain. In addition we have utilized a refined technique for longitudinal monitoring of bacterial burden that is non-invasive thereby reducing the numbers of animals required. The model was used to demonstrate that the two component regulatory system, CovR/S, is required for optimum infection and transmission from the nasopharynx. There is a fitness cost conferred by covR/S mutation that is specific to the nasopharynx. This may explain why S. pyogenes with altered covR/S have not become prevalent in community infections despite possessing a selective advantage in invasive infection.
Streptococcus pyogenes infection of the nasopharynx represents a key step in the pathogenic cycle of this organism and a major focus for vaccine development, requiring robust models to facilitate the screening of potentially protective antigens. One antigen that may be an important target for vaccination is the chemokine protease, SpyCEP, which is cell surface-associated and plays a role in pathogenesis. Biophotonic imaging (BPI) can non-invasively characterize the spatial location and abundance of bioluminescent bacteria in vivo. We have developed a bioluminescent derivative of a pharyngeal S. pyogenes strain by transformation of an emm75 clinical isolate with the luxABCDE operon. Evaluation of isogenic recombinant strains in vitro and in vivo confirmed that bioluminescence conferred a growth deficit that manifests as a fitness cost during infection. Notwithstanding this, bioluminescence expression permitted non-invasive longitudinal quantitation of S. pyogenes within the murine nasopharynx albeit with a detection limit corresponding to approximately 10(5) bacterial colony forming units (CFU) in this region. Vaccination of mice with heat killed streptococci, or with SpyCEP led to a specific IgG response in the serum. BPI demonstrated that both vaccine candidates reduced S. pyogenes bioluminescence emission over the course of nasopharyngeal infection. The work suggests the potential for BPI to be used in the non-invasive longitudinal evaluation of potential S. pyogenes vaccines.
SpyCEP is a Streptococcus pyogenes protease that cleaves CXCL8/IL-8 and its activity is associated with human invasive disease severity. We investigated the role of SpyCEP in S. pyogenes necrotizing fasciitis and respiratory tract infection in mice using isogenic strains differing only in SpyCEP expression. SpyCEP cleaved human CXCL1, 2, 6 and 8 plus murine CXCL1 and 2 at a structurally conserved site. Mice were infected in thigh muscle with a strain of S. pyogenes that expresses a high level of SpyCEP, or with an isogenic non-SpyCEP expressing strain. SpyCEP expression by S. pyogenes hindered bacterial clearance from muscle, and enhanced bacterial spread, associated with cleavage of murine chemoattractant CXCL1. Mice were then infected with Lactococcus lactis strains that differed only in SpyCEP expression. In contrast to the parent L. lactis strain (lacks SpyCEP), which was avirulent when administered intramuscularly, infection with a strain that expressed SpyCEP heterologously led to dramatic systemic illness within 24 h, failure to clear bacteria from muscle and marked dissemination to other organs. In the upper airways, SpyCEP expression was required for survival of L. lactis but not S. pyogenes. However, dissemination of S. pyogenes to the lung was SpyCEP-dependent and was associated with evidence of chemokine cleavage. Taken together, the studies provide clear evidence that SpyCEP is necessary and sufficient for systemic bacterial dissemination from a soft tissue focus in this model and also underlies dissemination in the respiratory tract.
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