Pneumococcal Histidine Triad Proteins Are Regulated by the Zn2+-dependent Repressor AdcR and Inhibit Complement Deposition Through the Recruitment of Complement Factor H

FASEB J. 2009 Mar;23(3):731-8. doi: 10.1096/fj.08-119537. Epub 2008 Oct 29.


The pneumococcal histidine triad (Pht) proteins are a recently recognized family of surface proteins, comprising 4 members: PhtA, PhtB, PhtD, and PhtE. They are being promoted for inclusion in a multicomponent pneumococcal protein vaccine currently under development, but to date, their biological functions and their relative contributions to pathogenesis have not been clarified. In this study, the involvement of these proteins in pneumococcal virulence was investigated in murine models of sepsis and pneumonia by using defined, nonpolar mutants of the respective genes in Streptococcus pneumoniae D39. In either challenge model, mutagenesis of all 4 genes was required to completely abolish virulence relative to the wild-type, suggesting significant functional redundancy among Pht proteins. The in vivo expression of pht genes was significantly up-regulated in the nasopharynx and lungs compared with blood. We provide unequivocal molecular evidence for Zn(2+)-dependent, AdcR-mediated, regulation of pht gene expression by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and electrophoretic mobility-shift assays. We also present the first direct evidence for the biological function of this protein family by demonstrating that Pht proteins are required for inhibition of complement deposition on the pneumococcal surface through the recruitment of complement factor H.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Complement Factor H / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Hydrolases / genetics
  • Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Pneumonia, Pneumococcal / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Pneumococcal / microbiology
  • Protein Binding
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Sepsis / microbiology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae* / genetics
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae* / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation
  • Zinc


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • histidine triad protein
  • Complement Factor H
  • Hydrolases
  • Zinc