Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Todd Kitten


Streptococcus sanguinis is the second most common causative agent of bacterial infective endocarditis (IE). Risk of S. sanguinis IE is dependent on pre-disposing damage to the heart valve endothelium, which results in deposition of clotting factors for formation of a sterile thrombus (referred to as vegetation). Despite medical advances, high mortality and morbidity rates persist. Molecular characterization of S. sanguinis virulence determinants may enable development of prevention methods. In a previous screen for S. sanguinis virulence determinants by signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) an attenuated mutant was identified with a transposon insertion in the nrdD gene, encoding an anaerobic ribonucleotide reductase. Evaluation of this mutant, as well as an nrdD in-frame deletion mutant, JFP27, by a soft-agar growth assay confirmed the anaerobic growth sensitivity of these strains. These studies suggest that an oxygen gradient occurs at the site of infection which selects for expression of anaerobic-specific genes at the nexus of the vegetation. The random STM screen failed to identify any favorable streptococcal surface-exposed prophylactic candidates. It was also apparent that additional genetic tools were required to facilitate the in vivo analyses of mutant strains. As it was desirable to insert antibiotic resistance markers into the chromosome, we identified a chromosomal site for ectopic expression of foreign genes. In vitro and in vivo analyses verified that insertion into this site did not affect important cellular phenotypes. The genetic tools developed facilitated further in vivo screening of S. sanguinis cell wall-associated (Cwa) protein mutants. A directed application of STM was employed for a comprehensive analysis of this surface protein class in the rabbit model of IE. Putative sortases, upon which Cwa proteins are dependent for cell surface localization, were also evaluated. No single S. sanguinis Cwa protein was determined essential for IE by STM screening; however competitiveness for colonization of the infection site was reduced for the mutant lacking expression of sortase A. The studies described here present a progressive picture of S. sanguinis IE, beginning with surface protein-dependent colonization of the vegetation in early IE, that later shifts to a bacterial persistence in situ dependent on condition-specific housekeeping genes, including nrdD.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2008