Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were used to gain insight into the molecular mechanism whereby the major extracellular protease from group A streptococci damages host tissue. HUVECs exposed to streptococcal cysteine protease (SCP) for various times exhibited cytopathic effect and cell detachment from the culture vessel. Gelatin substrate zymography showed that a time- and concentration-dependent increase in the level of activity of an approximately 66-kDa gelatinase occurred in culture medium taken from cells exposed to enzymatically active SCP. This gelatinase comigrated in gelatin zymograms with the activated form of purified recombinant matrix metalloprotease 2 (MMP-2) and had type IV collagenase activity. In contrast, medium taken from cells exposed to inactivated (boiled) SCP and cells exposed to SCP inhibited by treatment with N- benzyloxycarbonyl-leucyl-valyl-glycine diazomethyl ketone lacked the 66-kDa gelatinase. Appearance of the 66-kDa gelatinase activity was also prevented by 1,10-phenanthroline, a zinc chelator and MMP inhibitor. Inasmuch as proteolytically active SCP is required for the emergence of this gelatinase and MMP activation occurs by proteolytic processing, the 66-kDa gelatinase may be a proteolytic cleavage product of a latent MMP expressed extracellularly by HUVECs. Direct SCP treatment of culture supernatant taken from HUVECs not exposed to SCP also produced the 66-kDa gelatinase. The data show that SCP activates an MMP produced by human endothelial cells, a process that may contribute to endothelial cell damage, tissue destruction, and hemodynamic derangement observed in some patients with severe, invasive group A streptococcal infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases