Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Microbiol. 2014 Aug 28;14:210. doi: 10.1186/s12866-014-0210-x.

A point mutation in cpsE renders Streptococcus pneumoniae nonencapsulated and enhances its growth, adherence and competence.

Author information

Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Friedbühlstrasse 51, Bern, CH-3010, Switzerland.



The polysaccharide capsule is a major virulence factor of the important human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae. However, S. pneumoniae strains lacking capsule do occur.


Here, we report a nasopharyngeal isolate of Streptococcus pneumoniae composed of a mixture of two phenotypes; one encapsulated (serotype 18C) and the other nonencapsulated, determined by serotyping, electron microscopy and fluorescence isothiocyanate dextran exclusion assay.By whole genome sequencing, we demonstrated that the phenotypes differ by a single nucleotide base pair in capsular gene cpsE (C to G change at gene position 1135) predicted to result in amino acid change from arginine to glycine at position 379, located in the cytoplasmic, enzymatically active, region of this transmembrane protein. This SNP is responsible for loss of capsule production as the phenotype is transferred with the capsule operon. The nonencapsulated variant is superior in growth in vitro and is also 117-fold more adherent to and more invasive into Detroit 562 human epithelial cells than the encapsulated variant.Expression of six competence pathway genes and one competence-associated gene was 11 to 34-fold higher in the nonencapsulated variant than the encapsulated and transformation frequency was 3.7-fold greater.


We identified a new single point mutation in capsule gene cpsE of a clinical S. pneumoniae serotype 18C isolate sufficient to cause loss of capsule expression resulting in the co-existence of the encapsulated and nonencapsulated phenotype. The mutation caused phenotypic changes in growth, adherence to epithelial cells and transformability. Mutation in capsule gene cpsE may be a way for S. pneumoniae to lose its capsule and increase its colonization potential.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center