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Infect Immun. 2007 Dec;75(12):5698-710. Epub 2007 Sep 24.

The Streptococcus pyogenes serotype M49 Nra-Ralp3 transcriptional regulatory network and its control of virulence factor expression from the novel eno ralp3 epf sagA pathogenicity region.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, University Hospital, Schillingallee 70, D-18057 Rostock, Germany.


Many Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus [GAS]) virulence factor- and transcriptional regulator-encoding genes cluster together in discrete genomic regions. Nra is a central regulator of the FCT region. Previous studies exclusively described Nra as a transcriptional repressor of adhesin and toxin genes. Here transcriptome and proteome analysis of a serotype M49 GAS strain and an isogenic Nra mutant of this strain revealed the complete Nra regulon profile. Nra is active in all growth phases tested, with the largest regulon in the transition phase. Almost exclusively, virulence factor-encoding genes are repressed by Nra; these genes include the GAS pilus operon, the capsule synthesis operon, the cytolysin-mediated translocation system genes, all Mga region core virulence genes, and genes encoding other regulators, like the Ihk/Irr system, Rgg, and two additional RofA-like protein family regulators. Surprisingly, our experiments revealed that Nra additionally acts as a positive regulator, mostly for genes encoding proteins and enzymes with metabolic functions. Epidemiological investigations revealed strong genetic linkage of one particular Nra-repressed regulator, Ralp3 (SPy0735), with a gene encoding Epf (extracellular protein factor from Streptococcus suis). In a serotype-specific fashion, this ralp3 epf gene block is integrated, most likely via transposition, into the eno sagA virulence gene block, which is present in all GAS serotypes. In GAS serotypes M1, M4, M12, M28, and M49 this novel discrete genetic region is therefore designated the eno ralp3 epf sagA (ERES) pathogenicity region. Functional experiments showed that Epf is a novel GAS plasminogen-binding protein and revealed that Ralp3 activity counteracts Nra and MsmR regulatory activity. In addition to the Mga and FCT regions, the ERES region is the third discrete chromosomal pathogenicity region. All of these regions are transcriptionally linked, adding another level of complexity to the known GAS growth phase-dependent regulatory network.

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