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Summary

The genomic analysis of Streptococcus pneumoniae strains identified the Pneumococcal adherence and virulence factor B (PavB), whose repetitive sequences, designated Streptococcal Surface REpeats (SSURE), interact with human fibronectin. Here, we showed the gene in all tested pneumococci and identified that the observed differences in the molecular mass of PavB rely on the number of repeats, ranging from five to nine SSURE. PavB interacted with fibronectin and plasminogen in a dose-dependent manner as shown by using various SSURE peptides. In addition, we identified PavB as colonization factor. Mice infected intranasally with ΔpavB pneumococci showed significantly increased survival times compared with wild-type bacteria. Importantly, the pavB-mutant showed a delay in transmigration to the lungs as observed in real-time using bioluminescent pneumococci and decreased colonization rates in a nasopharyngeal carriage model. In co-infection experiments the wild-type out-competed the pavB-mutant and infections of epithelial cells demonstrated that PavB contributes to adherence to host cell. Blocking experiments suggested a function of PavB as adhesin, which was confirmed by direct binding of SSURE peptides to host cells. Finally, PavB may represent a new vaccine candidate as SSURE peptides reacted with human sera. Taken together, PavB is a surface-exposed adhesin, which contributes to pneumococcal colonization and infections of the respiratory airways.