The two faces of Janus: virulence gene regulation by CovR/S in group A streptococci

Mol Microbiol. 2007 Apr;64(1):34-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05649.x.


The group A streptococcus (GAS) causes a variety of human diseases, including toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis, which are both associated with significant mortality. Even the superficial self-limiting diseases caused by GAS, such as pharyngitis, impose a significant economic burden on society. GAS can cause a wide spectrum of diseases because it elaborates virulence factors that enable it to spread and survive in different environmental niches within the human host. The production of many of these virulence factors is directly controlled by the activity of the CovR/S two-component regulatory system. CovS acts in one direction as a kinase primarily to activate the response regulator CovR and repress the expression of major virulence factors and in the other direction as a phosphatase to permit gene expression in response to environmental changes that mimic conditions found during human infection. This Janus-like behaviour of the CovR/S system is recapitulated in the binding of CovR to the promoters that it directly regulates. Interactions between different faces of the CovR DNA binding domain appear to depend upon DNA sequence, leading to the potential for differential regulation of virulence gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / enzymology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / metabolism
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CsrR protein, Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • Phosphotransferases
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases