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Contribution of Streptococcus pyogenes M87 protein to innate immune resistance and virulence

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Streptococcus pyogenes is a pre-eminent human pathogen, and classified by the hypervariable sequence of the emm gene encoding the cell surface M protein. Among a diversity of M/emm types, the prevalence of the M/emm87 strain has been steadily increasing in invasive S. pyogenes infections. Although M protein is the major virulence factor for globally disseminated M/emm1 strain, it is unclear if or how the corresponding M protein of M/emm87 strain (M87 protein) functions as a virulence factor. Here, we use targeted mutagenesis to show that the M87 protein contributes to bacterial resistance to neutrophil and whole blood killing and promotes the release of mature IL-1β from macrophages. While deletion of emm87 did not influence epithelial cell adherence and nasal colonization, it significantly reduced S. pyogenes-induced mortality and bacterial loads in a murine systemic infection model. Our data suggest that emm87 is involved in pathogenesis by modulating the interaction between S. pyogenes and innate immune cells.

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