PloS one

Conserved surface accessible nucleoside ABC transporter component SP0845 is essential for pneumococcal virulence and confers protection in vivo.

PMID 25689507


Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis. Surface accessible proteins of S. pneumoniae are being explored for the development of a protein-based vaccine in order to overcome the limitations of existing polysaccharide-based pneumococcal vaccines. To identify a potential vaccine candidate, we resolved surface-associated proteins of S. pneumoniae TIGR4 strain using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis followed by immunoblotting with antisera generated against whole heat-killed TIGR4. Ten immunoreactive spots were identified by mass spectrometric analysis that included a putative lipoprotein SP0845. Analysis of the inferred amino acid sequence of sp0845 homologues from 36 pneumococcal strains indicated that SP0845 was highly conserved (>98% identity) and showed less than 11% identity with any human protein. Our bioinformatic and functional analyses demonstrated that SP0845 is the substrate-binding protein of an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter that is involved in nucleoside uptake with cytidine, uridine, guanosine and inosine as the preferred substrates. Deletion of the gene encoding SP0845 renders pneumococci avirulent suggesting that it is essential for virulence. Immunoblot analysis suggested that SP0845 is expressed in in vitro grown pneumococci and during mice infection. Immunofluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry data indicated that SP0845 is surface exposed in encapsulated strains and accessible to antibodies. Subcutaneous immunization with recombinant SP0845 induced high titer antibodies in mice. Hyperimmune sera raised against SP0845 promoted killing of encapsulated pneumococcal strains in a blood bactericidal assay. Immunization with SP0845 protected mice from intraperitoneal challenge with heterologous pneumococcal serotypes. Based on its surface accessibility, role in virulence and ability to elicit protective immunity, we propose that SP0845 may be a potential candidate for a protein-based pneumococcal vaccine.