Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Biology and Biomedical Sciences: Biochemistry


English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 1-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Caparon


Nutrient acquisition is a strong driving force in the evolution of pathogenesis. For many pathogens such as Streptococcus pyogenes, the coordination of metabolism with the expression of virulence factors is necessary for colonization. Previous research examining the regulation of virulence factors in S. pyogenes identified a unique catabolite sensing regulatory pathway composed of the tagatose bis-phosphate aldolase LacD.1. Examination of LacD.1 has determined that while it still maintains its ancestral enzymatic activity its regulation occurs via a mechanism independent of catalysis. Our approach to understanding how S. pyogenes' metabolism contributes to pathogenesis involves both understanding the adaptation of LacD.1 as a novel metabolic regulator as well as investigating the role of LacD.1-regulated genes in pathogenesis.

Analysis of LacD.1's ancestral enzymatic activity and comparison to a paralogous protein encoded in the genome, LacD.2, suggested that the adaptation of LacD.1 required a decrease in enzymatic activity as compared to LacD.2. This decrease in activity is largely due to an increase in Km, and suggests an optimization in affinity for the signaling substrate(s) necessary for LacD.1's regulation. Additionally the regulatory function of LacD.1 was found to be essential for the fitness of bacteria when cultured in media that mimicked a soft tissue environment. The selective advantage observed for bacteria in this environment can likely be attributed to LacD.1's positive regulation of the arc operon, which encodes genes necessary for arginine catabolism and contributes to both the production of ATP and protection from acid stress.

To further investigate the arc operon's contribution to the fitness of bacteria in a soft tissue environment we examined the influence of arginine catabolism on pathogenesis. Analysis of several mutants defective in catabolism revealed that both the utilization of arginine as well as the novel utilization of citrulline aids in S. pyogenes pathogenesis. This influence on pathogenesis included contributions to both the cellular metabolism of S. pyogenes as well as the modulation of the host immune response. Taken together this work demonstrates that LacD.1's adaptation to a regulator and its coordination of metabolism and virulence factor expression was essential to increase the fitness of S. pyogenes as a pathogen.


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