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Streptococcus pyogenes chromosomal island M1 (SpyCIM1) integrates by site-specific recombination into the 5’ end of DNA mismatch repair (MMR) gene mutL in strain SF370SmR, blocking transcription of it and the downstream operon genes. During exponential growth, SpyCIM1 excises from the chromosome and replicates as an episome, restoring mutL transcription. This process is reversed in stationary phase with SpyCIM1 re-integrating into mutL, returning the cells to a mutator phenotype. Here we show that elimination of SpyCIM1 relieves this mutator phenotype. The downstream MMR operon genes, multidrug efflux pump lmrP, Holliday junction resolution helicase ruvA, and DNA base excision repair glycosylase tag, are also restored to constitutive expression by elimination of SpyCIM1. The presence of SpyCIM1 alters global transcription patterns in SF370SmR. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) demonstrated that loss of SpyCIM1 in the SpyCIM1 deletion mutant, CEM1Δ4, impacted the expression of over 100 genes involved in virulence and metabolism both in early exponential phase, when the SpyCIM1 is episomal, as well as at the onset of stationary phase, when SpyCIM1 has reintegrated into mutL. Among these changes, the up-regulation of the genes for the antiphagocytic M protein (emm1), streptolysin O (slo), capsule operon (hasABC), and streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin (speB), are particularly notable. The expression pattern of the MMR operon confirmed our earlier observations that these genes are transcribed in early exponential phase but silenced as stationary phase is approached. Thus, the direct role of SpyCIM1 in causing the mutator phenotype is confirmed, and further, its influence upon the biology of S. pyogenes was found to impact multiple genes in addition to the MMR operon, which is a novel function for a mobile genetic element. We suggest that such chromosomal islands are a remarkable evolutionary adaptation to promote the survival of its S. pyogenes host cell in changing environments.


This article was originally published in PLOS one, available at DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0145884.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0)



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