Genetic heterogeneity of the Spy1336/R28—Spy1337 virulence axis in Streptococcus pyogenes and effect on gene transcript levels and pathogenesis

Jesus M. Eraso, Priyanka Kachroo, Randall J. Olsen, Stephen B. Beres, Luchang Zhu, Traci Badu, Sydney Shannon, Concepcion C. Cantu, Matthew Ojeda Saavedra, Samantha L. Kubiak, Adeline R. Porter, Frank R. DeLeo, James M. Musser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Streptococcus pyogenes is a strict human pathogen responsible for more than 700 million infections annually worldwide. Strains of serotype M28 S. pyogenes are typically among the five more abundant types causing invasive infections and pharyngitis in adults and children. Type M28 strains also have an unusual propensity to cause puerperal sepsis and neonatal disease. We recently discovered that a one-nucleotide indel in an intergenic homopolymeric tract located between genes Spy1336/R28 and Spy1337 altered virulence in a mouse model of infection. In the present study, we analyzed size variation in this homopolymeric tract and determined the extent of heterogeneity in the number of tandemly-repeated 79-amino acid domains in the coding region of Spy1336/R28 in large samples of strains recovered from humans with invasive infections. Both repeat sequence elements are highly polymorphic in natural populations of M28 strains. Variation in the homopolymeric tract results in (i) changes in transcript levels of Spy1336/R28 and Spy1337 in vitro, (ii) differences in virulence in a mouse model of necrotizing myositis, and (iii) global transcriptome changes as shown by RNAseq analysis of isogenic mutant strains. Variation in the number of tandem repeats in the coding sequence of Spy1336/R28 is responsible for size variation of R28 protein in natural populations. Isogenic mutant strains in which genes encoding R28 or transcriptional regulator Spy1337 are inactivated are significantly less virulent in a nonhuman primate model of necrotizing myositis. Our findings provide impetus for additional studies addressing the role of R28 and Spy1337 variation in pathogen-host interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0229064
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins/genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing/microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Streptococcal Infections/microbiology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes/genetics
  • Transcriptome
  • Virulence/genetics
  • Virulence Factors/genetics


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