Dynamic pneumococcal genetic adaptations support bacterial growth and inflammation during coinfection with influenza

Amanda P. Smith, Lindey C. Lane, Tim van Opijnen, Stacie Woolard, Robert Carter, Amy Iverson, Corinna Burnham, Peter Vogel, Dana Roeber, Gabrielle Hochu, Michael D.L. Johnson, Jonathan A. McCullers, Jason Rosch, Amber M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is one of the primary bacterial pathogens that complicates influenza virus infections. These bacterial coinfections increase influenza-associated morbidity and mortality through a number of immunological and viral-mediated mechanisms, but the specific bacterial genes that contribute to postinfluenza pathogenicity are not known. Here, we used genomewide transposon mutagenesis (Tn-Seq) to reveal bacterial genes that confer improved fitness in influenza virus-infected hosts. The majority of the 32 genes identified are involved in bacterial metabolism, including nucleotide biosynthesis, amino acid biosynthesis, protein translation, and membrane transport. We generated mutants with single-gene deletions (SGD) of five of the genes identified, SPD1414, SPD2047 (cbiO1), SPD0058 (purD), SPD1098, and SPD0822 (proB), to investigate their effects on in vivo fitness, disease severity, and host immune responses. The growth of the SGD mutants was slightly attenuated in vitro and in vivo, but each still grew to high titers in the lungs of mock- and influenza virus-infected hosts. Despite high bacterial loads, mortality was significantly reduced or delayed with all SGD mutants. Time-dependent reductions in pulmonary neutrophils, inflammatory macrophages, and select proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines were also observed. Immunohistochemical staining further revealed altered neutrophil distribution with reduced degeneration in the lungs of influenza virus-SGD mutant-coinfected animals. These studies demonstrate a critical role for specific bacterial genes and for bacterial metabolism in driving virulence and modulating immune function during influenzaassociated bacterial pneumonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00023-21
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Genetic adaptation
  • Immune response
  • Influenza virus
  • Metabolism
  • Pathogenesis
  • Pneumococcus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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