Null Mutations of Group A Streptococcus Orphan Kinase RocA: Selection in Mouse Infection and Comparison with CovS Mutations in Alteration of in vitro and in vivo Protease SpeB Expression and Virulence


Wenchao Feng, Dylan Minor, Mengyao Liu, Jinquan Li, Suzanne L Ishaq, Carl Yeoman, Benfang Lei


Infection and Immunity


Group A Streptococcus (GAS) acquires mutations of virulence regulator CovRS in human and mouse infections that upregulate virulence genes and downregulate protease SpeB. To identify in vivo mutants with novel phenotype, GAS isolates from mouse infection were screened by enzymatic assays for SpeB and platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase Sse, identifying a new type of variants that had enhanced Sse expression and normal SpeB production (Sse(A+)SpeB(A+)). Sse(A+)SpeB(A+) variants have transcripts levels of CovRS-controlled virulence genes comparable to those of a covS mutant but had no covRS mutations. Genome resequencing of an Sse(A+)SpeB(A+) isolate identified a C605A nonsense mutation in orphan kinase gene rocA, and 6 other Sse(A+)SpeB(A+) isolates also had nonsense mutations or small indels of rocA RocA and CovS mutants have similar enhancement in expression of CovRS-controlled virulence genes at the exponential growth phase; however, mutations of RocA, but not CovS, do not downregulate speB transcription at stationary growth phase and in subcutaneous infection of mice. RocA and CovS mutations have greater enhancement in expression of hasA than spyCEP in mouse skin infection in comparison with wild type GAS. RocA mutants rank between wild type GAS and CovS mutants in skin invasion, inhibition of neutrophil recruitment, and virulence in subcutaneous infection of mice. Thus, GAS RocA mutants can be selected in subcutaneous infection of mice and exhibit distinct gene expression pattern and virulence from CovS mutants. The findings provide novel information for the understanding of GAS fitness mutations in vivo, virulence gene regulation, in vivo gene expression, and virulence.



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