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Role of teichoic acid choline moieties in the virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Waldemar Vollmer


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In recent reports it was shown that genetically modified choline-free strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae (D39CholicA64 and D39ChiplicB31) expressing the type II capsular polysaccharide were virtually avirulent in the murine sepsis model, in sharp contrast to the isogenic and highly virulent strains D39Cho and D39Chip, which have retained the choline residues at their surface. We now demonstrate that this choline-associated virulence is independent of Toll-like receptor 2 recognition. Also, despite the lack of virulence, choline-free strains of S. pneumoniae were able to activate splenic dendritic cells, induce secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, and produce specific protective immunity against subsequent challenge. However, after this transient engagement of the immune system the choline-free bacteria were rapidly cleared from the blood, while the isogenic virulent strain D39Cho continued to grow, accompanied by prolonged expression of cytokines, eventually killing the experimental animals. The critical contribution of choline residues to the virulence potential of pneumococci appears to be the role that these amino alcohol residues play in a pneumococcal immune evasion strategy, the mechanism of which is unknown at the present time.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gehre F, Spisek R, Kharat AS, Matthews P, Kukreja A, Anthony RM, Dhodapkar MV, Vollmer W, Tomasz A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Infection and Immunity

Year: 2009

Volume: 77

Issue: 7

Pages: 2824-2831

ISSN (print): 0019-9567

ISSN (electronic): 1070-6313

Publisher: American Society for Microbiology


DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00986-08


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