Membrane surface localized endonuclease EndA of the pulmonary pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is required for both genetic transformation and virulence. Pneumococcus expresses EndA during growth. However, it has been reported that EndA has no access to external DNA when pneumococcal cells are not competent for genetic transformation, and thus, unable to degrade extracellular DNA. Here, by using both biochemical and genetic methods, we demonstrate the existence of EndA-mediated nucleolytic activity independent of the competence state of pneumococcal cells. Pneumococcal mutants that are genetically deficient in competence development and genetic transformation have extracellular nuclease activity comparable to their parental wild type, including their ability to degrade neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). The autolysis deficient ΔlytA mutant and its isogenic choline-treated parental wild-type strain D39 degrade extracellular DNA readily, suggesting that partial cell autolysis is not required for DNA degradation. We show that EndA molecules are secreted into the culture medium during the growth of pneumococcal cells, and contribute substantially to competence-independent nucleolytic activity. The competence-independent activity of EndA is responsible for the rapid degradation of DNA and NETs, and is required for the full virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae during lung infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)