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J Theor Biol. 2007 May 7;246(1):113-28. Epub 2006 Nov 21.

Control of Streptococcus pyogenes virulence: modeling of the CovR/S signal transduction system.

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School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0230, USA.


The CovR/S system in Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus, or GAS), a two-component signal transduction/transcription regulation system, controls the expression of major virulence factors. The presence of a negative feedback loop distinguishes the CovR/S system from the majority of bacterial two-component systems. We developed a deterministic model of the CovR/S system consisting of eight delay differential equations. Computational experiments showed that the system possessed a unique stable steady state. The dynamical behavior of the system showed a tendency for oscillations becoming more pronounced for longer but still biochemically realistic delays resulting from reductions in the rates of translation elongation. We have devised an efficient procedure for computing the system's steady state. Further, we have shown that the signal-response curves are hyperbolic for the default parameter values. However, in experiments with randomized parameters we demonstrated that sigmoidality of signal-response curves, implying a response threshold, is not only possible, but seems to be rather typical for CovR/S-like systems even when binding of the CovR response regulator protein to a promoter is non-cooperative. We used sensitivity analysis to simplify the model in order to make it analytically tractable. The existence and uniqueness of the steady state and hyperbolicity of signal-response curves for the majority of the variables was proved for the simplified model. Also, we found that provided CovS was active, the system was insensitive to changes in the concentration of any other phosphoryl donor such as acetyl phosphate.

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