SUMMARY: Although the Gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) has been considered an extracellular pathogen which adheres to human mucosal epithelium, the streptococcus possesses invasive capacity for cultured human epithelial cells. This study provides genetic and functional evidence supporting the conclusion that protein F is capable of mediating entry of S. pyogenes into HeLa cells. Using 111916 insertion mutagenesis or an isogenic 5. pyogenes strain with a defined mutation in the gene encoding protein F (prtF), it was observed that the invasive capacity was affected by the levels of surface-exposed protein F, but not by those of M protein. In addition, heterologous expression of protein F on Enterococcus faecalis conferred upon the bacteria an efficient invasive phenotype. Several assays demonstrated that both the fibronectin-binding domains of protein F, UR and RD2, were involved in host-cell invasion. In addition, coinfection experiments of HeLa cells with 5. pyogenes and an Escherichia coli K-12 strain expressing an afimbrial adhesin AFA-I showed that the uptake of S. pyogenes did notpermit internalization of the E. coli cells.


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