Transcriptional analysis of the acid tolerance response in Streptococcus pneumoniae

Microbiology. 2005 Dec;151(Pt 12):3935-3946. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.28238-0.


Streptococcus pneumoniae, one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in humans, faces a range of potentially acidic conditions in the middle and late stages of growth in vitro, in diverse human fluids during the infection process, and in biofilms present in the nasopharynx of carriers. S. pneumoniae was shown to develop a weak acid tolerance response (ATR), where cells previously exposed to sublethal pHs (5.8-6.6) showed an increased survival rate of up to one order of magnitude after challenge at the lethal pH (4.4, survival rate of 10(-4)). Moreover, the survival after challenge of stationary phase cells at pH 4.4 was three orders of magnitude higher than that of cells taken from the exponential phase, due to the production of lactic acid during growth and increasing acidification of the growth medium until stationary phase. Global expression analysis after short-term (5, 15 and 30 min, the adaptation phase) and long-term (the maintenance phase) acidic shock (pH 6.0) was performed by microarray experiments, and the results were validated by real-time RT-PCR. Out of a total of 126 genes responding to acidification, 59 and 37 were specific to the adaptation phase and maintenance phase, respectively, and 30 were common to both periods. In the adaptation phase, both up- and down-regulation of gene transcripts was observed (38 and 21 genes, respectively), whereas in the maintenance phase most of the affected genes were down-regulated (34 out of 37). Genes involved in protein fate (including those involved in the protection of the protein native structure) and transport (including transporters of manganese and iron) were overrepresented among the genes affected by acidification, 8.7 and 24.6 % of the acid-responsive genes compared to 2.8 % and 9.6 % of the genome complement, respectively. Cross-regulation with the response to oxidative and osmotic stress was observed. Potential regulatory motifs involved in the ATR were identified in the promoter regions of some of the regulated genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acids / pharmacology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / drug effects*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*


  • Acids
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors