Formation of molecular complexes between a structurally defined M protein and acylated or deacylated lipoteichoic acid of Streptococcus pyogenes

I. Ofek, W. A. Simpson, E. H. Beachey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The orientation of lipoteichoic acid (LTA) molecules on the surface of bacterial cells undoubtedly is determined by the ability of the LTA, during its transit through the cell wall, to bind via its polyglycerophosphate backbone or its glycolipid moieties to other constituents of the cytoplasmic membrane and the cell wall. The authors have investigated the possibility that LTA may become anchored to the cell surface by binding through its polyanionic backbone to positively charged regions of cell wall proteins. LTA was found to prevent the precipitation of partially purified HCl extracts of several strains of streptococci as well as a structurally defined streptococcal M protein molecule (pep M24) in 83% solutions of ethanol. The formation of complexes between LTA and M protein was demonstrated further by immunoelectrophoresis of pep M24 protein with increasing concentrations of radiolabeled LTA and by using antiserum against pep M24 to develop precipitin arcs. Pep M24 electrophoresed alone produced a single precipitin arc close to the origin. In contrast, when electrophoresed as a mixture with LTA or deacylated LTA, the M protein produced a second precipitin arc toward the anode coinciding with the area of migration of the radioactive LTA. Increasing concentrations of LTA or deacylated LTA shifted increasing amounts of the pep M24 antigen to the region of the second arc. Maleylation of M protein to block the positively charged free amino groups before mixing it with LTA prevented the formation of complexes. The complexes formed by the M protein with LTA, but not with deacylated LTA, showed the capacity to bind bovine serum albumin; LTA had been shown previously to bind to the fatty acid binding sites on bovine serum albumin. These results indicate that the LTA molecule is able to bind via its polyanionic backbone to positively charged residues of surface proteins of cells of S. pyogenes. The implications of such interaction as to the orientation of LTA modeluces on the surface of cells of S. pyogenes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-433
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1982


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