Front Microbiol. 2016 Mar 31;7:420. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00420. eCollection 2016.
The diverse pneumococcal diseases are associated with different pneumococcal lineages, or clonal complexes. Nevertheless, intra-clonal genomic variability, which influences pathogenicity, has been reported for surface virulence factors. These factors constitute the communication interface between the pathogen and its host and their corresponding genes are subjected to strong selective pressures affecting functionality and immunogenicity. First, the presence and allelic dispersion of 97 outer protein families were screened in 19 complete pneumococcal genomes. Seventeen families were deemed variable and were then examined in 216 draft genomes. This procedure allowed the generation of binary vectors with 17 positions and the classification of strains into surfotypes. They represent the outer protein subsets with the highest inter-strain discriminative power. A total of 116 non-redundant surfotypes were identified. Those sharing a critical number of common protein features were hierarchically clustered into 18 surfogroups. Most clonal complexes with comparable epidemiological characteristics belonged to the same or similar surfogroups. However, the very large CC156 clonal complex was dispersed over several surfogroups. In order to establish a relationship between surfogroup and pathogenicity, the surfotypes of 95 clinical isolates with different serogroup/serotype combinations were analyzed. We found a significant correlation between surfogroup and type of pathogenic behavior (primary invasive, opportunistic invasive, and non-invasive). We conclude that the virulent behavior of S. pneumoniae is related to the activity of collections of, rather than individual, surface virulence factors. Since surfotypes evolve faster than MLSTs and directly reflect virulence potential, this novel typing protocol is appropriate for the identification of emerging clones.
diagnosis; emergent clones; genomics; surface proteins; virulence factors
PMID: 27064593 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4815138