Successful colonization of the upper respiratory tract by Streptococcus pneumoniae is an essential first step in the pathogenesis of pneumococcal disease. However, the bacterial and host factors that provoke the progression from asymptomatic colonization to invasive disease are yet to be fully defined. In this study, we investigated the effects of single and combined mutations in genes encoding pneumolysin (Ply), pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA), and pneumococcal surface protein C (PspC, also known as choline-binding protein A) on the pathogenicity of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 2 (D39) in mice. Following intranasal challenge with D39, stable colonization of the nasopharynx was maintained over a 7-day period at a level of approximately 105 bacteria per mouse. The abilities of the mutant deficient in PspA to colonize the nasopharynx and to cause lung infection and bacteremia were significantly reduced. Likewise, the PspC mutant and, to a lesser extent, the Ply mutant also had reduced abilities to colonize the nasopharynx. As expected, the double mutants colonized less well than the parent to various degrees and had difficulty translocating to the lungs and blood. A significant additive attenuation was observed for the double and triple mutants in pneumonia and systemic disease models. Surprisingly, the colonization profile of the derivative lacking all three proteins was similar to that of the wild type, indicating virulence gene compensation. These findings further demonstrate that the mechanism of pneumococcal pathogenesis is highly complex and multifactorial but ascribes a role for each of these virulence proteins, alone or in combination, in the process. Copyright © 2007, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.