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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Apr;60(1):93-107.

Drastic reduction in the virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae expressing type 2 capsular polysaccharide but lacking choline residues in the cell wall.

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Laboratory of Microbiology, 1230 York Avenue, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The role of capsular polysaccharides and several virulence-related proteins in the pathogenic potential of Streptococcus pneumoniae has been studied extensively. Much less information is available about the role of the pneumococcal cell wall in virulence. In this communication we describe an experimental system that has allowed us to test - in a global way - the role of choline, a structural component of the pneumococcal cell wall, in virulence. We constructed double mutants of S. pneumoniae which have lost the auxotrophic requirement for choline and which were also blocked from utilizing choline from the growth medium. Such a double mutant expressing type 2 capsule but completely lacking choline residues from its cell wall grew well both in vitro and also in the blood of infected mice, but showed striking reduction of virulence approaching that of a capsule-free strain in several models of pneumococcal disease including the capacity to attach and invade a human nasopharyngeal cell line; nasal colonization and intraperitoneal and intravenous inoculation in the mouse. The findings allow one to separate the choline requirement of S. pneumoniae into two sharply defined classes: the need for choline in growth and replication which can be effectively bypassed and the need for choline in pneumococcal virulence that appears to be irreplaceable. The double mutant should be a useful experimental tool to dissect the mechanism of choline requirement in various stages of pneumococcal virulence.

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