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J Bacteriol. 2006 Jan;188(2):378-88.

The streptococcal Blr and Slr proteins define a family of surface proteins with leucine-rich repeats: camouflaging by other surface structures.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Division of Medical Microbiology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 23, SE-22362, Lund, Sweden.


Regions with tandemly arranged leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) have been found in many prokaryotic and eukaryotic proteins, in which they provide a remarkably versatile framework for the formation of ligand-binding sites. Bacterial LRR proteins include the recently described Slr protein of Streptococcus pyogenes, which is related to internalin A of Listeria monocytogenes. Here, we show that strains of the human pathogen Streptococcus agalactiae express a protein, designated Blr, which together with Slr defines a family of internalin A-related streptococcal LRR proteins. Analysis with specific antibodies demonstrated that Blr is largely inaccessible on S. agalactiae grown in vitro, but surface exposure was increased approximately 100-fold on mutants lacking polysaccharide capsule. In S. pyogenes, surface exposure of Slr was not affected in a mutant lacking hyaluronic acid capsule but was increased >20-fold in mutants lacking M protein or protein F. Thus, both Blr and Slr are efficiently camouflaged by other surface structures on bacteria grown in vitro. When Blr and Slr exposed on the bacterial surface were compared, they exhibited only little immunological cross-reactivity, in spite of extensive residue identity, suggesting that their surface-exposed parts have been under evolutionary pressure to diverge functionally and/or antigenically. These data identify a family of immunologically diverse streptococcal LRR proteins that show unexpected complexity in their interactions with other bacterial surface components.

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