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Trends Microbiol. 2012 Nov;20(11):517-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2012.08.008. Epub 2012 Sep 5.

Pneumococcal carbohydrate transport: food for thought.

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Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA.


Streptococcus pneumoniae relies exclusively on carbohydrates as a carbon source and devotes 30% of all transport mechanisms to carbohydrate import. Pneumococci utilize at least 32 carbohydrates in vitro. However, some proposed substrates are not human-derived, so it is unclear where they are encountered in the host niche, and other substrates remain unidentified. The majority of transporter loci are conserved, arguing against redundancy and instead for distinct roles during pathogenesis. Despite this, expression and regulation of carbohydrate transporters in vivo remain ill defined. Recent work has also demonstrated that multiple ABC transporters share an ATPase; whether this evolved for genome minimization or for transporter regulation remains unknown. Continued efforts to understand carbohydrate import may reveal novel vaccine and therapeutic targets and increase our understanding of pneumococcal pathogenesis.

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