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The role of CopA in Streptococcus pyogenes copper homeostasis and virulence


  • Dao, Tina H.
  • Iverson, Amy
  • Neville, Stephanie L.
  • Johnson, Michael D.L.
  • McDevitt, Christopher A.
  • Rosch, Jason W.


Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Volume 240, 2023-03-31

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Maintenance of intracellular metal homeostasis during interaction with host niches is critical to the success of bacterial pathogens. To prevent infection, the mammalian innate immune response employs metal-withholding and metal-intoxication mechanisms to limit bacterial propagation. The first-row transition metal ion copper serves critical roles at the host-pathogen interface and has been associated with antimicrobial activity since antiquity. Despite lacking any known copper-utilizing proteins, streptococci have been reported to accumulate significant levels of copper. Here, we report that loss of CopA, a copper-specific exporter, confers increased sensitivity to copper in Streptococcus pyogenes strain HSC5, with prolonged exposure to physiological levels of copper resulting in reduced viability during stationary phase cultivation. This defect in stationary phase survival was rescued by supplementation with exogeneous amino acids, indicating the pathogen had altered nutritional requirements during exposure to copper stress. Furthermore, S. pyogenes HSC5 ΔcopA was substantially attenuated during murine soft-tissue infection, demonstrating the importance of copper efflux at the host-pathogen interface. Collectively, these data indicate that copper can severely reduce the viability of stationary phase S. pyogenes and that active efflux mechanisms are required to survive copper stress in vitro and during infection.