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J Immunol. 2007 May 1;178(9):5848-58.

The host immune regulator factor H interacts via two contact sites with the PspC protein of Streptococcus pneumoniae and mediates adhesion to host epithelial cells.

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University of Wuerzburg, Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Wuerzburg, Germany.


Pneumococcal surface protein C (PspC) of Streptococcus pneumoniae is a key virulence factor that mediates adhesion to host cells and immune evasion of the host complement. PspC binds the host immune and complement regulator factor H, which is composed of 20 short consensus repeats (SCR). This interaction contributes to pneumococcal virulence. In this study, we identified within the factor H protein two separate PspC binding regions, which were localized to SCR8-11 and SCR19-20, by using recombinant factor H deletion constructs for Western blotting assays and surface plasmon resonance studies. A detailed analysis of binding epitopes in these SCR by peptide spot arrays identified several linear binding regions within the sequences of SCR8-11 and SCR19-20. In addition, the factor H binding site was mapped within the pneumococcal PspC protein to a 121-aa-long stretch positioned in the N terminus (residues 38-158). Factor H attached to the surface of pneumococci via PspC significantly enhanced pneumococcal adherence to host epithelial and endothelial cells. This adhesion was specific and was blocked with a truncated N-terminal factor H-binding fragment of PspC. In conclusion, the acquisition of factor H by pneumococci via PspC occurs via two contact sites located in SCR8-11 and SCR19-20, and factor H attached to the surface of the pneumococcus promotes adhesion to both host epithelial and endothelial cells.

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