Serine-rich repeat proteins and pili promote Streptococcus agalactiae colonization of the vaginal tract

J Bacteriol. 2011 Dec;193(24):6834-42. doi: 10.1128/JB.00094-11. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococcus [GBS]) is a Gram-positive bacterium found in the female rectovaginal tract and is capable of producing severe disease in susceptible hosts, including newborns and pregnant women. The vaginal tract is considered a major reservoir for GBS, and maternal vaginal colonization poses a significant risk to the newborn; however, little is known about the specific bacterial factors that promote GBS colonization and persistence in the female reproductive tract. We have developed in vitro models of GBS interaction with the human female cervicovaginal tract using human vaginal and cervical epithelial cell lines. Analysis of isogenic mutant GBS strains deficient in cell surface organelles such as pili and serine-rich repeat (Srr) proteins shows that these factors contribute to host cell attachment. As Srr proteins are heavily glycosylated, we confirmed that carbohydrate moieties contribute to the effective interaction of Srr-1 with vaginal epithelial cells. Antibody inhibition assays identified keratin 4 as a possible host receptor for Srr-1. Our findings were further substantiated in an in vivo mouse model of GBS vaginal colonization, where mice inoculated with an Srr-1-deficient mutant exhibited decreased GBS vaginal persistence compared to those inoculated with the wild-type (WT) parental strain. Furthermore, competition experiments in mice showed that WT GBS exhibited a significant survival advantage over the ΔpilA or Δsrr-1 mutant in the vaginal tract. Our results suggest that these GBS surface proteins contribute to vaginal colonization and may offer new insights into the mechanisms of vaginal niche establishment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / genetics
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / genetics
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / growth & development*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / metabolism
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / physiology
  • Vagina / microbiology*


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Srr-1 protein, Streptococcus agalactiae
  • Fimbriae Proteins