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Mol Microbiol. 2015 Apr;96(2):249-62. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12935. Epub 2015 Feb 4.

The small regulatory RNA FasX enhances group A Streptococcus virulence and inhibits pilus expression via serotype-specific targets.

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Center for Molecular Medicine, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Nevada, School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada, USA.


Bacterial pathogens commonly show intra-species variation in virulence factor expression and often this correlates with pathogenic potential. The group A Streptococcus (GAS) produces a small regulatory RNA (sRNA), FasX, which regulates the expression of pili and the thrombolytic agent streptokinase. As GAS serotypes are polymorphic regarding (a) FasX abundance, (b) the fibronectin, collagen, T-antigen (FCT) region of the genome, which contains the pilus genes (nine different FCT-types), and (c) the streptokinase-encoding gene (ska) sequence (two different alleles), we sought to test whether FasX regulates pilus and streptokinase expression in a serotype-specific manner. Parental, fasX mutant and complemented derivatives of serotype M1 (ska-2, FCT-2), M2 (ska-1, FCT-6), M6 (ska-2, FCT-1) and M28 (ska-1, FCT-4) isolates were compared. While FasX reduced pilus expression in each serotype, the molecular basis differed, as FasX bound, and inhibited the translation of, different FCT-region mRNAs. FasX enhanced streptokinase expression in each serotype, although the degree of regulation varied. Finally, we established that the regulation afforded by FasX enhances GAS virulence, assessed by a model of bacteremia using human plasminogen-expressing mice. Our data are the first to identify and characterize serotype-specific regulation by an sRNA in GAS, and to show an sRNA directly contributes to GAS virulence.

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