PLoS One. 2017 Jun 6;12(6):e0179159. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179159. eCollection 2017.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is commonly found in the human nasopharynx and is the causative agent of multiple diseases. Since invasive pneumococcal infections are associated with encapsulated pneumococci, the capsular polysaccharide is the target of licensed pneumococcal vaccines. However, there is an increasing distribution of non-vaccine serotypes, as well as nonencapsulated S. pneumoniae (NESp). Both encapsulated and nonencapsulated pneumococci possess the polyamine oligo-transport operon (potABCD). Previous research has shown inactivation of the pot operon in encapsulated pneumococci alters protein expression and leads to a significant reduction in pneumococcal murine colonization, but the role of the pot operon in NESp is unknown. Here, we demonstrate deletion of potD from the NESp NCC1 strain MNZ67 does impact expression of the key proteins pneumolysin and PspK, but it does not inhibit murine colonization. Additionally, we show the absence of potD significantly increases biofilm production, both in vitro and in vivo. In a chinchilla model of otitis media (OM), the absence of potD does not significantly affect MNZ67 virulence, but it does significantly reduce the pathogenesis of the virulent encapsulated strain TIGR4 (serotype 4). Deletion of potD also significantly reduced persistence of TIGR4 in the lungs but increased persistence of PIP01 in the lungs. We conclude the pot operon is important for the regulation of protein expression and biofilm formation in both encapsulated and NCC1 nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae. However, in contrast to encapsulated pneumococcal strains, polyamine acquisition via the pot operon is not required for MNZ67 murine colonization, persistence in the lungs, or full virulence in a model of OM. Therefore, NESp virulence regulation needs to be further established to identify potential NESp therapeutic targets.