Stable expression of modified green fluorescent protein in group B streptococci to enable visualization in experimental systems

Matthew J. Sullivan, Glen C. Ulett

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a Gram-positive bacterium associated with various diseases in humans and animals. Many studies have examined GBS physiology, virulence, and microbe-host interactions using diverse imaging approaches, including fluorescence microscopy. Strategies to label and visualize GBS using fluorescence biomarkers have been limited to antibody-based methods or nonspecific stains that bind DNA or protein; an effective plasmid-based system to label GBS with a fluorescence biomarker would represent a useful visualization tool. In this study, we developed and validated a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-variantexpressing plasmid, pGU2664, which can be applied as a marker to visualize GBS in experimental studies. The synthetic constitutively active CP25 promoter drives strong and stable expression of the GFPmut3 biomarker in GBS strains carrying pGU2664. GBS maintains GFPmut3 activity at different phases of growth. The application of fluorescence polarization enables easy discrimination of GBS GFPmut3 activity from the autofluorescence of culture media commonly used to grow GBS. Differential interference contrast microscopy, in combination with epifluorescence microscopy to detect GFPmut3 in GBS, enabled visualization of bacterial attachment to live human epithelial cells in real time. Plasmid pGU2664 was also used to visualize phenotypic differences in the adherence of wild-type GBS and an isogenic gene-deficient mutant strain lacking CovR (the control of virulence regulator) in adhesion assays. The system for GFPmut3 expression in GBS described in this study provides a new tool for the visualization of this organism in diverse research applications. We discuss the advantages and consider the limitations of this fluorescent biomarker system developed for GBS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01262-18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number18
Early online date31 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • Bacterial adhesion
  • CovS/CovR
  • Fluorescence detection
  • Green fluorescent protein
  • Group B streptococcus
  • Streptococcus agalactiae
  • Uroepithelium

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