Sci Rep. 2017 May 26;7(1):2453. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02465-x.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is a human pathogen, accounting for massive global morbidity and mortality. Although asymptomatic colonization of the nasopharynx almost invariably precedes disease, the critical determinants enabling pneumococcal progression from this niche to cause invasive disease are poorly understood. One mechanism proposed to be central to this transition involves opacity phase variation, whereby pneumococci harvested from the nasopharynx are typically transparent, while those simultaneously harvested from the blood are opaque. Here, we used two dimensional-differential gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) to compare protein expression profiles of transparent and opaque variants of 3 pneumococcal strains, D39 (serotype 2), WCH43 (serotype 4) and WCH16 (serotype 6A) in vitro. One spot comprising a mixture of capsular polysaccharide biosynthesis protein and other proteins was significantly up-regulated in the opaque phenotype in all 3 strains; other proteins were differentially regulated in a strain-specific manner. We conclude that pneumococcal phase variation is a complex and multifactorial process leading to strain-specific pathogenicity.