Influence of Streptococcus pneumoniae Within-Strain Population Diversity on Virulence and Pathogenesis

Jacques, Laura C, Green, Angharad E ORCID: 0000-0002-8683-8191, Barton, Thomas E ORCID: 0000-0002-4592-4261, Baltazar, Murielle ORCID: 0000-0002-1972-2308, Aleksandrowicz, Julia, Xu, Rong, Trochu, Erwan, Kadioglu, Aras and Neill, Daniel R ORCID: 0000-0002-7911-8153
(2022) Influence of Streptococcus pneumoniae Within-Strain Population Diversity on Virulence and Pathogenesis. MICROBIOLOGY SPECTRUM, 11 (1). e0310322-.

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The short generation time of many bacterial pathogens allows the accumulation of <i>de novo</i> mutations during routine culture procedures used for the preparation and propagation of bacterial stocks. Taking the major human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae as an example, we sought to determine the influence of standard laboratory handling of microbes on within-strain genetic diversity and explore how these changes influence virulence characteristics and experimental outcomes. A single culture of S. pneumoniae D39 grown overnight resulted in the enrichment of previously rare genotypes present in bacterial freezer stocks and the introduction of new variation to the bacterial population through the acquisition of mutations. A comparison of D39 stocks from different laboratories demonstrated how changes in bacterial population structure taking place during individual culture events can cumulatively lead to fixed, divergent change that profoundly alters virulence characteristics. The passage of D39 through mouse models of infection, a process used to standardize virulence, resulted in the enrichment of high-fitness genotypes that were originally rare (<2% frequency) in D39 culture collection stocks and the loss of previously dominant genotypes. In the most striking example, the selection of a <2%-frequency genotype carrying a mutation in <i>sdhB</i>, a gene thought to be essential for the establishment of lung infection, was associated with enhanced systemic virulence. Three separately passaged D39 cultures originating from the same frozen stocks showed considerable genetic divergence despite comparable virulence. <b>IMPORTANCE</b> Laboratory bacteriology involves the use of high-density cultures that we often assume to be clonal but that in reality are populations consisting of multiple genotypes at various abundances. We have demonstrated that the genetic structure of a single population of a widely used Streptococcus pneumoniae strain can be substantially altered by even short-term laboratory handling and culture and that, over time, this can lead to changes in virulence characteristics. Our findings suggest that caution should be applied when comparing data generated in different laboratories using the same strain but also when comparing data within laboratories over time. Given the dramatic reductions in the cost of next-generation sequencing technology in recent years, we advocate for the frequent sampling and sequencing of bacterial isolate collections.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Streptococcus pneumoniae, evolution, infectious disease, population genetics, virulence
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2023 12:34
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2023 02:03
DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.03103-22
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