Genetic alteration of capsule type but not PspA type affects accessibility of surface-bound complement and surface antigens of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Academic Article


  • The Streptococcus pneumoniae capsular polysaccharides and pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) are major determinants of virulence that are antigenically variable and capable of eliciting protective immune responses. By genetically switching the pspA genes of the capsule type 2 strain D39 and the capsule type 3 strain WU2, we showed that the different abilities of antibody to PspA to protect against these strains was not related to the PspA type expressed. Similarly, the level of specific antibody binding to PspA, other surface antigens, and surface-localized C3b did not depend on the PspA type but instead was correlated with the capsule type. The type 3 strain WU2 and an isogenic derivative of D39 that expresses the type 3 capsule bound nearly identical amounts of antibody to PspA and other surface antigens, and these amounts were less than one-half the amount observed with the type 2 parent strain D39. Expression of the type 3 capsule in D39 also reduced the amount of C3b deposited and its accessibility to antibody, resulting in a level intermediate between the levels observed with WU2 and D39. Despite these effects, the capsule type was not the determining factor in anti-PspA-mediated protection, as both D39 and its derivative expressing the type 3 capsule were more resistant to protection than WU2. The specific combination of PspA and capsule type also did not determine the level of protection. The capsule structure is thus a major determinant in accessibility of surface antigens to antibody, but certain strains appear to express other factors that can influence antibody-mediated protection.
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    Author List

  • Abeyta M; Hardy GG; Yother J
  • Start Page

  • 218
  • End Page

  • 225
  • Volume

  • 71
  • Issue

  • 1