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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Apr;56(1):28-39.

Human fibrinogen bound to Streptococcus pyogenes M protein inhibits complement deposition via the classical pathway.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Dermatology and Infection, Lund University, Sölvegatan 23, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden.


Human fibrinogen (Fg) binds to surface proteins expressed by many pathogenic bacteria and has been implicated in different host-pathogen interactions, but the role of bound Fg remains unclear. Here, we analyse the role of Fg bound to Streptococcus pyogenes M protein, a major virulence factor that confers resistance to phagocytosis. Studies of the M5 system showed that a chromosomal mutant lacking the Fg-binding region was completely unable to resist phagocytosis, indicating that bound Fg plays a key role in virulence. Deposition of complement on S. pyogenes occurred via the classical pathway even under non-immune conditions, but was blocked by M5-bound Fg, which reduced the amount of classical pathway C3 convertase on the bacterial surface. This property of M protein-bound Fg may explain its role in phagocytosis resistance. Previous studies have shown that many M proteins do not bind Fg, but interfere with complement deposition and phagocytosis by recruiting human C4b-binding protein (C4BP), an inhibitor of the classical pathway. Thus, all M proteins may share ability to recruit a human plasma protein, Fg or C4BP, which inhibits complement deposition via the classical pathway. Our data identify a novel function for surface-bound Fg and allow us to propose a unifying mechanism by which M proteins interfere with innate immunity.

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