Induction of a quorum sensing pathway by environmental signals enhances group A streptococcal resistance to lysozyme.
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The human-restricted pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus, GAS) is responsible for wide-ranging pathologies at numerous sites in the body but has the proclivity to proliferate in individuals asymptomatically. The ability to survive in diverse tissues is undoubtedly benefited by sensory pathways that recognize environmental cues corresponding to stress and nutrient availability and thereby trigger adaptive responses. We investigated the impact that environmental signals contribute to cell-to-cell chemical communication [quorum sensing (QS)] by monitoring activity of the Rgg2/Rgg3 and SHP-pheromone system in GAS. We identified metal limitation and the alternate carbon source mannose as two environmental indicators likely to be encountered by GAS in the host that significantly induced the Rgg-SHP system. Disruption of the metal regulator MtsR partially accounted for the response to metal depletion, whereas ptsABCD was primarily responsible for QS induction due to mannose, but each sensory system induced Rgg-SHP signaling apparently by different mechanisms. Significantly, we found that induction of QS, regardless of the GAS serotype tested, led to enhanced resistance to the antimicrobial agent lysozyme. These results indicate the benefits for GAS to integrate environmental signals with intercellular communication pathways in protection from host defenses.