Novel genes required for the fitness of Streptococcus pyogenes in human saliva

Luchang Zhu, Amelia R.L. Charbonneau, Andrew S. Waller, Randall J. Olsen, Stephen B. Beres, James M. Musser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus [GAS]) causes 600 million cases of pharyngitis each year. Despite this considerable disease burden, the molecular mechanisms used by GAS to infect, cause clinical pharyngitis, and persist in the human oropharynx are poorly understood. Saliva is ubiquitous in the human oropharynx and is the first material GAS encounters in the upper respiratory tract. Thus, a fuller understanding of how GAS survives and proliferates in saliva may provide valuable insights into the molecular mechanisms at work in the human oropharynx. We generated a highly saturated transposon insertion mutant library in serotype M1 strain MGAS2221, a strain genetically representative of a pandemic clone that arose in the 1980s and spread globally. The transposon mutant library was exposed to human saliva to screen for GAS genes required for wild-type fitness in this clinically relevant fluid. Using transposon-directed insertion site sequencing (TraDIS), we identified 92 genes required for GAS fitness in saliva. The more prevalent categories represented were genes involved in carbohydrate transport/metabolism, amino acid transport/metabolism, and inorganic ion transport/metabolism. Using six isogenic mutant strains, we confirmed that each of the mutants was significantly impaired for growth or persistence in human saliva ex vivo. Mutants with an inactivated Spy0644 (sptA) or Spy0646 (sptC) gene had especially severe persistence defects. This study is the first to use of TraDIS to study bacterial fitness in human saliva. The new information we obtained will be valuable for future translational maneuvers designed to prevent or treat human GAS infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00460-17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Fitness
  • Human pathogen
  • Saliva
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • TraDIS
  • Transposon mutagenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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