Expression of Different Group A Streptococcal M Proteins in an Isogenic Background Demonstrates Diversity in Adherence to and Invasion of Eukaryotic Cells

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Mar;31(5):1463-75. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01289.x.


The M protein of group A streptococcus (GAS) is considered to be a major virulence factor because it renders GAS resistant to phagocytosis and allows bacterial growth in human blood. There are more than 80 known serotypes of M proteins, and protective opsonic antibodies produced during disease in humans are serotype specific. M proteins also mediate bacterial adherence to epithelial cells of skin and pharynx. GAS strains vary in the genomic organization of the mga regulon, which contains the genes encoding M and M-like proteins and other virulence factors. This diversity of organization makes it difficult to assess virulence of M proteins of different serotypes, unless they can be expressed in an isogenic background. Here, we express M proteins of different serotypes in the M protein- and protein F1-deficient GAS strain, SAM2, which also lacks M-like proteins. Genes encoding M proteins of different serotypes (emmXs) have been integrated into the SAM2 chromosome in frame with the emm6.1 promoter and its mga regulon, resulting in similar levels of emmX expression. Although SAM2 exhibits a very low level of adherence to and invasion of HEp-2 and HaCaT cells, a SAM2-derived strain expressing M6 protein adheres to and invades both cell types. In contrast, the isogenic strain expressing M18 protein adheres to both cell types, but invades with a very low efficiency. A strain expressing M3 protein adheres to both types of cells, but its invasion of HEp-2 cells is serum dependent. A GAS strain expressing M6 protein does not compete with the isogenic strain expressing M18 protein for adherence to or invasion of HaCaT cells. We conclude that M proteins of different serotypes recognize different repertoires of receptors on the surfaces of eukaryotic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Cell Line
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • GAP-43 Protein / metabolism
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Membrane Cofactor Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, CD
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CD46 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Mcp protein, mouse
  • Membrane Cofactor Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • streptococcal M protein