Identification of Streptococcus Agalactiae Virulence Genes in the Neonatal Rat Sepsis Model Using Signature-Tagged Mutagenesis

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Sep;37(6):1444-55. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.02099.x.


Group B streptococcal (GBS) infections are the most common cause of bacterial sepsis in the immediate newborn period. Apart from the capsule, the factors required for survival of GBS in the host are not well defined. In this study, signature-tagged transposon mutagenesis (STM) was used to identify genes required for growth and survival of GBS in a neonatal rat sepsis infection model. Approximately 1600 transposon mutants were screened in pools of 80 mutants, and approximately 120 mutants defective for survival in the animal host were identified. We successfully cloned and sequenced DNA flanking the transposon insertions from 92 of the mutants. Fifty per cent of the mutants had transposon insertions in genes with homologues in the public databases, whereas the remaining 50% had transposon insertions in genes with unknown function. A significant proportion of the avirulent mutants had transposon insertions in genes encoding transport-associated or regulatory proteins or in genes involved in cell surface metabolism, emphasizing the significance of these functions for in vivo survival of GBS. Overall, STM analysis revealed GBS genomic loci that encode a wide variety of functional gene classes, underscoring the diversity of bacterial processes required for the infection process. Currently, the function of the genes identified during the screening can only be inferred by homology to previously described genes. However, a number of the genes identified in this study have been shown to correlate with virulence in other pathogens. A virulence of a subset of mutants identified during the screening was confirmed by performing competitive index assays and lethal dose assays. This represents the first report of a genome-wide scan for virulence factors in GBS. The identified genes will further our understanding of the pathogenesis of GBS infections and may represent targets for intervention or lead to the development of novel therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / classification
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation*
  • Rats
  • Sepsis / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / genetics*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements