A novel sialic acid-binding adhesin present in multiple species contributes to the pathogenesis of Infective endocarditis

PLoS Pathog. 2021 Jan 19;17(1):e1009222. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1009222. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Bacterial binding to platelets is a key step in the development of infective endocarditis (IE). Sialic acid, a common terminal carbohydrate on host glycans, is the major receptor for streptococci on platelets. So far, all defined interactions between streptococci and sialic acid on platelets are mediated by serine-rich repeat proteins (SRRPs). However, we identified Streptococcus oralis subsp. oralis IE-isolates that bind sialic acid but lack SRRPs. In addition to binding sialic acid, some SRRP- isolates also bind the cryptic receptor β-1,4-linked galactose through a yet unknown mechanism. Using comparative genomics, we identified a novel sialic acid-binding adhesin, here named AsaA (associated with sialic acid adhesion A), present in IE-isolates lacking SRRPs. We demonstrated that S. oralis subsp. oralis AsaA is required for binding to platelets in a sialic acid-dependent manner. AsaA comprises a non-repeat region (NRR), consisting of a FIVAR/CBM and two Siglec-like and Unique domains, followed by 31 DUF1542 domains. When recombinantly expressed, Siglec-like and Unique domains competitively inhibited binding of S. oralis subsp. oralis and directly interacted with sialic acid on platelets. We further demonstrated that AsaA impacts the pathogenesis of S. oralis subsp. oralis in a rabbit model of IE. Additionally, we found AsaA orthologues in other IE-causing species and demonstrated that the NRR of AsaA from Gemella haemolysans blocked binding of S. oralis subsp. oralis, suggesting that AsaA contributes to the pathogenesis of multiple IE-causing species. Finally, our findings provide evidence that sialic acid is a key factor for bacterial-platelets interactions in a broader range of species than previously appreciated, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic target.

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*
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / pathology*
  • Male
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism*
  • Rabbits
  • Streptococcus / classification
  • Streptococcus / genetics
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus / metabolism*


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid

Supplementary concepts

  • Streptococcus oralis subsp. oralis