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Microbiology. 2013 Jul;159(Pt 7):1521-34. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.064444-0. Epub 2013 May 23.

The two-component response regulator LiaR regulates cell wall stress responses, pili expression and virulence in group B Streptococcus.

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Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Group B Streptococcus (GBS) remains the leading cause of early onset sepsis among term infants. Evasion of innate immune defences is critical to neonatal GBS disease pathogenesis. Effectors of innate immunity, as well as numerous antibiotics, frequently target the peptidoglycan layer of the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall. The intramembrane-sensing histidine kinase (IM-HK) class of two-component regulatory systems has been identified as important to the Gram-positive response to cell wall stress. We have characterized the GBS homologue of LiaR, the response regulator component of the Lia system, to determine its role in GBS pathogenesis. LiaR is expressed as part of a three-gene operon (liaFSR) with a promoter located upstream of liaF. A LiaR deletion mutant is more susceptible to cell wall-active antibiotics (vancomycin and bacitracin) as well as antimicrobial peptides (polymixin B, colistin, and nisin) compared to isogenic wild-type GBS. LiaR mutant GBS are significantly attenuated in mouse models of both GBS sepsis and pneumonia. Transcriptional profiling with DNA microarray and Northern blot demonstrated that LiaR regulates expression of genes involved in microbial defence against host antimicrobial systems including genes functioning in cell wall synthesis, pili formation and cell membrane modification. We conclude that the LiaFSR system, the first member of the IM-HK regulatory systems to be studied in GBS, is involved in sensing perturbations in the integrity of the cell wall and activates a transcriptional response that is important to the pathogenesis of GBS infection.

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