Phenotypic variation in the group A Streptococcus due to natural mutation of the accessory protein-encoding gene rocA

Poulomee Sarkar, Jessica L. Danger, Ira Jain, Laura A. Meadows, Christopher Beam, Josette Medicielo, Cameron Burgess, James M. Musser, Paul Sumby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Populations of a bacterial pathogen, whether recovered from a single patient or from a worldwide study, are often a heterogeneous mix of genetically and phenotypically divergent strains. Such heterogeneity is of value in changing environments and arises via mechanisms such as gene gain or gene mutation. Here, we identify an isolate of serotype M12 group A Streptococcus (GAS) (Streptococcus pyogenes) that has a natural mutation in rocA, which encodes an accessory protein to the virulence-regulating two-component system CovR/CovS (CovR/S). Disruption of RocA activity results in the differential expression of multiple GAS virulence factors, including the anti-phagocytic hyaluronic acid capsule and the chemokine protease SpyCEP. While some of our data regarding RocA-regulated genes overlaps with previous studies, which were performed with isolates of alternate GAS serotypes, some variability was also observed. Perhaps as a consequence of this alternate regulatory activity, we discovered that the contribution of RocA to the ability of the M12 isolate to survive and proliferate in human blood ex vivo is opposite that previously observed in M1, M3, and M18 GAS strains. Specifically, rocA mutation reduced, rather than enhanced, survival of the isolate. Finally, we also present data from an analysis of rocA transcription and show that rocA is transcribed in both mono- and polycistronic mRNAs. In aggregate, our data provide insight into the important regulatory role of RocA and into the mechanisms and consequences of GAS phenotypic heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00519-18
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Gene mutation
  • Gene regulation
  • Phenotypic variation
  • Streptococcus pyogenes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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