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The pneumococcus obtains its energy from the metabolism of host glycosides. Therefore, efficient degradation of host glycoproteins is integral to pneumococcal virulence. In search of novel pneumococcal glycosidases, we characterized the Streptococcus pneumoniae strain D39 protein encoded by SPD_0065 and found that this gene encodes a beta-galactosidase. The SPD_0065 recombinant protein released galactose from desialylated fetuin, which was used here as a model of glycoproteins found in vivo. A pneumococcal mutant with a mutation in SPD_0065 showed diminished beta-galactosidase activity, exhibited an extended lag period in mucin-containing defined medium, and cleaved significantly less galactose than the parental strain during growth on mucin. As pneumococcal beta-galactosidase activity had been previously attributed solely to SPD_0562 (bgaA), we evaluated the contribution of SPD_0065 and SPD_0562 to total beta-galactosidase activity. Mutation of either gene significantly reduced enzymatic activity, but beta-galactosidase activity in the double mutant, although significantly less than that in either of the single mutants, was not completely abolished. The expression of SPD_0065 in S. pneumoniae grown in mucin-containing medium or tissues harvested from infected animals was significantly upregulated compared to that in pneumococci from glucose-containing medium. The SPD_0065 mutant strain was found to be attenuated in virulence in a manner specific to the host tissue.


Vanessa S Terra, Karen A Homer, Susmitha G Rao, Peter W Andrew, Hasan Yesilkaya. Characterization of novel beta-galactosidase activity that contributes to glycoprotein degradation and virulence in Streptococcus pneumoniae. Infection and immunity. 2010 Jan;78(1):348-57

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PMID: 19841081

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