Promiscuous evolution of Group A Streptococcal M and M-like proteins

Publication Name

Microbiology (United Kingdom)


Group A Streptococcus (GAS) M and M-like proteins are essential virulence factors and represent the primary epidemiological marker of this pathogen. Protein sequences encoding 1054 M, Mrp and Enn proteins, from 1668 GAS genomes, were analysed by SplitsTree4, partitioning around medoids and co-occurrence. The splits network and groups-based analysis of all M and M-like proteins revealed four large protein groupings, with multiple evolutionary histories as represented by multiple edges for most splits, leading to ‘M-family-groups’ (FG) of protein sequences: FG I, Mrp; FG II, M protein and Protein H; FG III, Enn; and FG IV, M protein. M and Enn proteins formed two groups with nine sub-groups and Mrp proteins formed four groups with ten sub-groups. Discrete co-occurrence of M and M-like proteins were identified suggesting that while dynamic, evolution may be constrained by a combination of functional and virulence attributes. At a granular level, four distinct family-groups of M, Enn and Mrp proteins are observable, with Mrp representing the most genetically distinct of the family-group of proteins. While M and Enn protein families generally group into three distinct family-groups, horizontal and vertical gene flow between distinct GAS strains is ongoing.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Number

CDR J.0019.17

Funding Sponsor

Fonds De La Recherche Scientifique - FNRS



Link to publisher version (DOI)