A highly active and negatively charged Streptococcus pyogenes lysin with a rare D-alanyl-L-alanine endopeptidase activity protects mice against streptococcal bacteremia

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2014 Jun;58(6):3073-84. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00115-14. Epub 2014 Mar 17.


Bacteriophage endolysins have shown great efficacy in killing Gram-positive bacteria. PlyC, a group C streptococcal phage lysin, represents the most efficient lysin characterized to date, with a remarkably high specificity against different streptococcal species, including the important pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes. However, PlyC is a unique lysin, in terms of both its high activity and structure (two distinct subunits). We sought to discover and characterize a phage lysin active against S. pyogenes with an endolysin architecture distinct from that of PlyC to determine if it relies on the same mechanism of action as PlyC. In this study, we identified and characterized an endolysin, termed PlyPy (phage lysin from S. pyogenes), from a prophage infecting S. pyogenes. By in silico analysis, PlyPy was found to have a molecular mass of 27.8 kDa and a pI of 4.16. It was active against a majority of group A streptococci and displayed high levels of activity as well as binding specificity against group B and C streptococci, while it was less efficient against other streptococcal species. PlyPy showed the highest activity at neutral pH in the presence of calcium and NaCl. Surprisingly, its activity was not affected by the presence of the group A-specific carbohydrate, while the activity of PlyC was partly inhibited. Additionally, PlyPy was active in vivo and could rescue mice from systemic bacteremia. Finally, we developed a novel method to determine the peptidoglycan bond cleaved by lysins and concluded that PlyPy exhibits a rare d-alanyl-l-alanine endopeptidase activity. PlyPy thus represents the first lysin characterized from Streptococcus pyogenes and has a mechanism of action distinct from that of PlyC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacteremia
  • Endopeptidases / chemistry
  • Endopeptidases / isolation & purification
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Enzymes / chemistry
  • Enzymes / isolation & purification
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Streptococcal Infections / prevention & control*
  • Streptococcus Phages / enzymology*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / virology*


  • Enzymes
  • lysin, streptococcus bacteriophage
  • Endopeptidases
  • endolysin
  • Alanine