The transcriptional regulator GlnR of Streptococcus pneumoniae is involved in the regulation of glutamine and glutamate metabolism, controlling the expression of the glnRA and glnPQ-zwf operons, as well as the gdhA gene. To assess the contribution of the GlnR regulon to virulence, D39 wild-type and mutant strains lacking genes of this regulon were tested in an in vitro adherence assay and murine infection models. All of the mutants, except the ΔglnR mutant, were attenuated in adherence to human pharyngeal epithelial Detroit 562 cells, suggesting a contribution of these genes to adherence during the colonization of humans. During murine colonization, only the ΔglnA mutant and the glnP-glnA double mutant (ΔglnAP) were attenuated, in contrast to ΔglnP, indicating that the effect is caused by the lack of GlnA expression. In our pneumonia model, only ΔglnP and ΔglnAP showed a significantly reduced number of bacteria in the lungs and blood, indicating that GlnP is required for survival in the lungs and possibly for dissemination to the blood. In intravenously infected mice, glnP and glnA were individually dispensable for survival in the blood whereas the ΔglnAP mutant was avirulent. Finally, transcriptome analysis of the ΔglnAP mutant showed that many genes involved in amino acid metabolism were upregulated. This signifies the importance of glutamine/glutamate uptake and synthesis for full bacterial fitness and virulence. In conclusion, several genes of the GlnR regulon are required at different sites during pathogenesis, with glnA contributing to colonization and survival in the blood and glnP important for survival in the lungs and, possibly, efficient transition from the lungs to the blood.
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