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Genes 2016, 7(10), 74; doi:10.3390/genes7100074

Presence of a Prophage Determines Temperature-Dependent Capsule Production in Streptococcus pyogenes

Department of Biology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, USA
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Science, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Helen J. Wing
Received: 3 August 2016 / Revised: 20 September 2016 / Accepted: 21 September 2016 / Published: 24 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Virulence Gene Regulation in Bacteria)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1633 KB, uploaded 24 September 2016]   |  


A hyaluronic acid capsule is a major virulence factor in the pathogenesis of Streptococcus pyogenes. It acts as an anti-phagocytic agent and adhesin to keratinocytes. The expression of the capsule is primarily regulated at the transcriptional level by the two-component regulatory system CovRS, in which CovR acts as a transcriptional repressor. The covRS genes are frequently mutated in many invasive strains, and a subset of the invasive CovRS mutants does not produce a detectable level of the capsule at 37 °C, but produces a significant amount of the capsule at sub-body temperatures. Here, we report that a prophage has a crucial role in this capsule thermoregulation. Passaging CovR-null strains showing capsule thermoregulation using a lab medium produced spontaneous mutants producing a significant amount of the capsule regardless of incubation temperature and this phenotypic change was caused by curing of a particular prophage. The lab strain HSC5 contains three prophages on the chromosome, and only ΦHSC5.3 was cured in all spontaneous mutants. This result indicates that the prophage ΦHSC5.3 plays a crucial role in capsule thermoregulation, most likely by repressing capsule production at 37 °C. View Full-Text
Keywords: Streptococcus pyogenes; Hyaluronic acid capsule; Capsule thermoregulation; CovRS; Prophages Streptococcus pyogenes; Hyaluronic acid capsule; Capsule thermoregulation; CovRS; Prophages

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Brown, L.; Kim, J.-H.; Cho, K.H. Presence of a Prophage Determines Temperature-Dependent Capsule Production in Streptococcus pyogenes. Genes 2016, 7, 74.

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