Streptococcus pneumoniae, le transformiste

Trends Microbiol. 2014 Mar;22(3):113-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Feb 5.


Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is an important human pathogen. Natural genetic transformation, which was discovered in this species, involves internalization of exogenous single-stranded DNA and its incorporation into the chromosome. It allows acquisition of pathogenicity islands and antibiotic resistance and promotes vaccine escape via capsule switching. This opinion article discusses how recent advances regarding several facets of pneumococcal transformation support the view that the process has evolved to maximize plasticity potential in this species, making the pneumococcus le transformiste of the bacterial kingdom and providing an advantage in the constant struggle between this pathogen and its host.

Keywords: DNA uptake; Streptococcus pneumoniae; competence; genetic exchange; natural transformation.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics*
  • Transformation, Bacterial*