Species-specific binding of human secretory component to SpsA protein of Streptococcus pneumoniae via a hexapeptide motif

Mol Microbiol. 2000 May;36(3):726-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.01897.x.


SpsA, a pneumococcal surface protein belonging to the family of choline-binding proteins, interacts specifically with secretory immunglobulin A (SIgA) via the secretory component (SC). SIgA and free SC from mouse, rat, rabbit and guinea-pig failed to interact with SpsA indicating species-specific binding to human SIgA and SC. SpsA is the only pneumococcal receptor molecule for SIgA and SC as confirmed by complete loss of SIgA and SC binding to a spsA mutant. Analysis of recombinant SpsA fusion proteins showed that the binding domain is located in the N-terminal region of SpsA. By the use of different truncated N-terminal SpsA fusion proteins, the minimum binding domain was shown to be composed of 112 amino acids (residues 172-283). The sequence of this 112-amino-acids domain was used to spot synthesize 34 overlapping peptides, consisting of 15 amino acids each, with an offset of three amino acids on a cellulose membrane. One of the peptides reacted specifically with both SIgA and SC. By using a second membrane with immobilized synthetic peptides of decreasing length containing parts of the identified 15-amino-acid motif a hexapeptide, YRNYPT was identified as the binding motif for SC and SIgA. SpsA proteins with a size smaller than the assay-positive domain of 112 amino acids were able to inhibit the interaction of SIgA and pneumococci provided they contained the binding motif. The results indicated that the hexapeptide YRNYPT located in SpsA of pneumococcal strain type 1 (ATCC 33400) between amino acids 198 and 203 is involved in SIgA and SC binding. Because synthetic peptides containing only parts of the hexapeptide also assayed positive, these results further suggest that at least the amino acids YPT of the identified hexapeptide are critical for binding to SC and SIgA. Amino acid substitutions in the identified putative binding motif abolished SC-/SIgA-binding activity of the mutated SpsA protein, confirming the functional activity of this hexapeptide and the critical role of the amino acids YPT in SC and SIgA binding. Identification of this motif, which is highly conserved in SpsA protein among different serotypes, might contribute towards a new peptide based vaccine strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology*
  • Binding Sites, Antibody
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Secretory Component / chemistry*
  • Secretory Component / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / immunology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Secretory Component
  • SpsA protein, Streptococcus pneumoniae