A Two-Component Regulatory System Impacts Extracellular Membrane-Derived Vesicle Production in Group A Streptococcus

mBio. 2016 Nov 1;7(6):e00207-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00207-16.


Export of macromolecules via extracellular membrane-derived vesicles (MVs) plays an important role in the biology of Gram-negative bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria have also recently been reported to produce MVs; however, the composition and mechanisms governing vesiculogenesis in Gram-positive bacteria remain undefined. Here, we describe MV production in the Gram-positive human pathogen group A streptococcus (GAS), the etiological agent of necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. M1 serotype GAS isolates in culture exhibit MV structures both on the cell wall surface and in the near vicinity of bacterial cells. A comprehensive analysis of MV proteins identified both virulence-associated protein substrates of the general secretory pathway in addition to "anchorless surface proteins." Characteristic differences in the contents, distributions, and fatty acid compositions of specific lipids between MVs and GAS cell membrane were also observed. Furthermore, deep RNA sequencing of vesicular RNAs revealed that GAS MVs contained differentially abundant RNA species relative to bacterial cellular RNA. MV production by GAS strains varied in a manner dependent on an intact two-component system, CovRS, with MV production negatively regulated by the system. Modulation of MV production through CovRS was found to be independent of both GAS cysteine protease SpeB and capsule biosynthesis. Our data provide an explanation for GAS secretion of macromolecules, including RNAs, lipids, and proteins, and illustrate a regulatory mechanism coordinating this secretory response.

Importance: Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a Gram-positive bacterial pathogen responsible for more than 500,000 deaths annually. Establishment of GAS infection is dependent on a suite of proteins exported via the general secretory pathway. Here, we show that GAS naturally produces extracellular vesicles with a unique lipid composition that are laden with proteins and RNAs. Interestingly, both virulence-associated proteins and RNA species were found to be differentially abundant in vesicles relative to the bacteria. Furthermore, we show that genetic disruption of the virulence-associated two-component regulator CovRS leads to an increase in vesicle production. This study comprehensively describes the protein, RNA, and lipid composition of GAS-secreted MVs and alludes to a regulatory system impacting this process.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Membrane Proteins / analysis
  • RNA / analysis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Secretory Vesicles / chemistry
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / metabolism*
  • Virulence Factors / analysis


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CsrR protein, Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • RNA
  • CovS protein, Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Histidine Kinase

Grants and funding

Funding was also provided to Emmanuelle Charpentier by the Max Planck Society and by the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine given by the Louis-Jeantet Foundation and the Göran Gustafsson Prize given by the Göran Gustafsson Foundation.