Group A streptococcus (GAS, Streptococcus pyogenes) type emm1 is widely associated with streptococcal invasive disease. This type is prevalent worldwide but is rare in India. Instead, emm1-2 type which is closely related to emm1 but is a distinct type is more prevalent. Although emm1 has been well characterized, information available on emm1-2 is rare. In this study we present a comparative study of both types. DNA microarray analysis showed segregation of emm1 and emm1-2 isolates into two distinct clusters. Out of 229 arrayed genes, 83-87% were present, 6-9% absent and 4-8% genes were ambiguous in emm1 isolates. emm1-2 strains harbored only 68-77%, 11-13% were absent and 10-20% ambiguous genes. Fourteen genes, present in all emm1, were completely absent in the emm1-2 isolates. sfb1 is a gene which encodes for Streptococcal fibronectin binding adhesin and invasin which has restricted distribution among different emm types of GAS. A variant of sfb1 (sfb1-2) was the only gene which was present in all emm1-2 isolates, but absent from all emm1 strains. Sfb1 and Sfb1-2 differ in sequences in the aromatic domain and the proline rich repeat region, whereas the fibronectin binding region was conserved and exhibited similar fibronectin binding activity. The presence of Sfb1-2 in emm1-2 strains was concomitant with significantly higher fibronectin-binding and invasion efficiency of HEp-2 cells when compared to emm1 isolates. The role of Sfb1-2 in invasion was confirmed by latex bead assay. emm1-2 isolates follow membrane ruffling mechanism during invasion and intracellularly follow classical endocytic pathway. Further studies are required to understand the correlation between the presence of emm1-2 isolates and the disease pattern in North India.
International Journal of Medical Microbiology / Vol. 304, No. 5-6, pp.685-695