Growth characteristics of and virulence factor production by group A Streptococcus during cultivation in human saliva

Samuel Shelburne, Chanel Granville, Maria Tokuyama, Izabela Sitkiewicz, Payal Patel, James M. Musser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Group A Streptococcus (GAS) commonly infects the human oropharynx, but the initial molecular events governing this process are poorly understood. Saliva is a major component of the innate and acquired immune defense in this anatomic site. Although landmark studies were done more than 60 years ago, investigation of GAS-saliva interaction has not been addressed extensively in recent years. Serotype M1 GAS strain MGAS5005 cultured in human saliva grew to ∼10 7 CFU/ml and, remarkably, maintained this density for up to 28 days. Strains of several other M-protein serotypes had similar initial growth patterns but did not maintain as high a CFU count during prolonged culture. As revealed by analysis of the growth of isogenic mutant strains, the ability of GAS to maintain high numbers of CFU/ml during the prolonged stationary phase in saliva was dependent on production of streptococcal inhibitor of complement (Sic) and streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B (SpeB). During cultivation in human saliva, GAS had growth-phase-dependent production of multiple proven and putative extracellular virulence factors, including Sic, SpeB, streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A, Mac protein, and streptococcal phospholipase A2. Our results clearly show that GAS responds in a complex fashion to growth in human saliva, suggesting that the molecular processes that enhance colonization and survival in the upper respiratory tract of humans are well under way before the organism reaches the epithelial cell surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4723-4731
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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