- Authors: Dawid S, Gould KA, Hinds J, Lencastre H, Mendes LA, Pinto FR, Sá-Leão R, Simões AS, Valente A
- Publication Year: 2016
- Journal: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
- Link: http://aem.asm.org/content/82/17/5206.full%20
Nasopharyngeal colonization is important for Streptococcus pneumoniaeevolution, providing the opportunity for horizontal gene transfer when multiple strains co-occur. Although colonization with more than one strain of pneumococcus is common, the factors that influence the ability of strains to coexist are not known. A highly variable blp (bacteriocin-like peptide) locus has been identified in all sequenced strains of S. pneumoniae. This locus controls the regulation and secretion of bacteriocins, small peptides that target other bacteria. In this study, we analyzed a series of cocolonizing isolates to evaluate the impact of the blp locus on human colonization to determine whether competitive phenotypes of bacteriocin secretion restrict cocolonization. We identified a collection of 135 nasopharyngeal samples cocolonized with two or more strains, totaling 285 isolates. The blp locus of all strains was characterized genetically with regard to pheromone type, bacteriocin/immunity content, and potential for locus functionality. Inhibitory phenotypes of bacteriocin secretion and locus activity were assessed through overlay assays. Isolates from single colonizations (n = 298) were characterized for comparison. Cocolonizing strains had a high diversity of blpcassettes; approximately one-third displayed an inhibitory phenotype in vitro. Despite in vitro evidence of competition, pneumococci cocolonized the subjects independently of blp pheromone type (P = 0.577), bacteriocin/immunity content, blp locus activity (P = 0.798), and inhibitory phenotype (P = 0.716). In addition, no significant differences were observed when single and cocolonizing strains were compared. Despite clear evidence of blp-mediated competition in experimental models, the results of our study suggest that the blp locus plays a limited role in restricting pneumococcal cocolonization in humans.
IMPORTANCE Nasopharyngeal colonization with Streptococcus pneumoniae(pneumococcus) is important for pneumococcal evolution, as the nasopharynx represents the major site for horizontal gene transfer when multiple strains co-occur, a phenomenon known as cocolonization. Understanding how pneumococcal strains interact within the competitive environment of the nasopharynx is of chief importance in the context of pneumococcal ecology. In this study, we used an unbiased collection of naturally co-occurring pneumococcal strains and showed that a biological process frequently used by bacteria for competition—bacteriocin production—is not decisive in the coexistence of pneumococci in the host, in contrast to what has been shown in experimental models.