Uptake of transforming DNA in Gram-positive bacteria: a view from Streptococcus pneumoniae

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Jul;45(2):411-21. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.03013.x.


In a working model for the uptake of transforming DNA based on evidence taken from both Bacillus subtilis and Streptococcus pneumoniae, the ComG proteins are proposed to form a structure that provides access for DNA to the ComEA receptor through the peptidoglycan. DNA would then be delivered to the ComEC-ComFA transport complex. A DNA strand would be degraded by a nuclease, while its complement is pulled into the cell by ComFA through an aqueous pore formed by ComEC. The nuclease is known in S. pneumoniae only as EndA. We have examined the processing (i.e. binding, degradation and internalization) of DNA in S. pneumoniae strains lacking candidate uptake proteins. Mutants were generated by transposon insertion in endA, comEA/C, comFA/C, comGA and dprA. Processing of DNA was abolished only in a comGA mutant. As significant binding was measured in comEA mutants, we suggest the existence of two stages in binding: surface attachment (abolished in a comGA mutant) required for and preceding deep binding (by ComEA). Abolition of degradation in comGA and comEA mutants indicated that, despite its membrane location, EndA cannot access donor DNA by itself. We propose that ComEA is required to deliver DNA to EndA. DNA was still bound and degraded in comEC and comFA mutants. We conclude that recruitment of EndA can occur in the absence of ComEC or ComFA and that EndA is active even when the single strands it produces are not pulled into the cell. Finally, inactivation of dprA had no effect on the internalization of DNA, indicating that DprA is required at a later stage in transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / physiology
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics*
  • Transformation, Bacterial*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • ComE protein, Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • ComEA protein, Bacillus subtilis
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DprA protein, bacteria
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • endA protein, bacteria