Background: Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a human-specific pathogen responsible for a number of diseases characterized by a wide range of clinical manifestations. During host colonization GAS-cell aggregates or microcolonies are observed in tissues. GAS biofilm, which is an in vitro equivalent of tissue microcolony, has only recently been studied and little is known about the specific surface determinants that aid biofilm formation. In this study, we demonstrate that surface-associated streptococcal collagen-like protein-1 (Scl1) plays an important role in GAS biofilm formation.
Results: Biofilm formation by M1-, M3-, M28-, and M41-type GAS strains, representing an intraspecies breadth, were analyzed spectrophotometrically following crystal violet staining, and characterized using confocal and field emission scanning electron microscopy. The M41-type strain formed the most robust biofilm under static conditions, followed by M28- and M1-type strains, while the M3-type strains analyzed here did not form biofilm under the same experimental conditions. Differences in architecture and cell-surface morphology were observed in biofilms formed by the M1- and M41-wild-type strains, accompanied by varying amounts of deposited extracellular matrix and differences in cell-to-cell junctions within each biofilm. Importantly, all Scl1-negative mutants examined showed significantly decreased ability to form biofilm in vitro. Furthermore, the Scl1 protein expressed on the surface of a heterologous host, Lactococcus lactis, was sufficient to induce biofilm formation by this organism.
Conclusions: Overall, this work (i) identifies variations in biofilm formation capacity among pathogenically different GAS strains, (ii) identifies GAS surface properties that may aid in biofilm stability and, (iii) establishes that the Scl1 surface protein is an important determinant of GAS biofilm, which is sufficient to enable biofilm formation in the heterologous host Lactococcus. In summary, the GAS surface adhesin Scl1 may have an important role in biofilm-associated pathogenicity.