Pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) is an important virulence factor of pneumococci and has been investigated as a primary component of a capsular serotype-independent pneumococcal vaccine. Thus, we sought to determine the genetic diversity of PspA to explore its potential as a vaccine candidate. Among the 190 invasive pneumococcal isolates collected from Korean children between 1991 and 2016, two (1.1%) isolates were found to have no pspA by multiple polymerase chain reactions. The full length pspA genes from 185 pneumococcal isolates were sequenced. The length of pspA varied, ranging from 1,719 to 2,301 base pairs with 55.7-100% nucleotide identity. Based on the sequences of the clade-defining regions, 68.7% and 49.7% were in PspA family 2 and clade 3/family 2, respectively. PspA clade types were correlated with genotypes using multilocus sequence typing and divided into several subclades based on diversity analysis of the N-terminal α-helical regions, which showed nucleotide sequence identities of 45.7-100% and amino acid sequence identities of 23.1-100%. Putative antigenicity plots were also diverse among individual clades and subclades. The differences in antigenicity patterns were concentrated within the N-terminal 120 amino acids. In conclusion, the N-terminal α-helical domain, which is known to be the major immunogenic portion of PspA, is genetically variable and should be further evaluated for antigenic differences and cross-reactivity between various PspA types from pneumococcal isolates.
PMID: 29131872 [PubMed - in process]