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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Mar;83(5):1035-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.07987.x. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

The ancillary protein 1 of Streptococcus pyogenes FCT-1 pili mediates cell adhesion and biofilm formation through heterophilic as well as homophilic interactions.

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Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina 1, Siena, Italy.


Gram-positive pili are known to play a role in bacterial adhesion to epithelial cells and in the formation of biofilm microbial communities. In the present study we undertook the functional characterization of the pilus ancillary protein 1 (AP1_M6) from Streptococcus pyogenes isolates expressing the FCT-1 pilus variant, known to be strong biofilm formers. Cell binding and biofilm formation assays using S. pyogenes in-frame deletion mutants, Lactococcus expressing heterologous FCT-1 pili and purified recombinant AP1_M6, indicated that this pilin is a strong cell adhesin that is also involved in bacterial biofilm formation. Moreover, we show that AP1_M6 establishes homophilic interactions that mediate inter-bacterial contact, possibly promoting bacterial colonization of target epithelial cells in the form of three-dimensional microcolonies. Finally, AP1_M6 knockout mutants were less virulent in mice, indicating that this protein is also implicated in GAS systemic infection.

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