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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Jul;33(1):208-19.

The R28 protein of Streptococcus pyogenes is related to several group B streptococcal surface proteins, confers protective immunity and promotes binding to human epithelial cells.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Sölvegatan 23, 22362 Lund, Sweden.


The R28 protein is a surface molecule expressed by some strains of Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus). Here, we present evidence that R28 may play an important role in virulence. Sequence analysis demonstrated that R28 has an extremely repetitive sequence and can be viewed as a chimera derived from the three surface proteins Rib, alpha and beta of the group B streptococcus (GBS). Thus, the gene encoding R28 may have originated in GBS. The R28 protein promotes adhesion to human epithelial cells, as shown by experiments with an R28-negative mutant and by the demonstration that antibodies to highly purified R28 inhibited adhesion. In a mouse model of lethal intraperitoneal S. pyogenes infection, antibodies to R28 conferred protective immunity. However, the virulence of an R28-negative mutant was similar to that of the parental strain in the intraperitoneal infection model. Together, these data indicate that R28 represents a novel type of adhesin expressed by S. pyogenes and that R28 may also act as a target for protective antibodies at later stages of an infection. We consider the hypothesis that R28 played a pathogenetic role in the well-known epidemics of childbed fever (puerperal fever), which were caused by S. pyogenes. A role for R28 in these epidemics is suggested by epidemiological data.

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