Pneumolysin binds to the mannose receptor C type 1 (MRC-1) leading to anti-inflammatory responses and enhanced pneumococcal survival

Karthik Subramanian, Daniel R. Neill, Hesham A. Malak, Laura Spelmink, Shadia Khandaker, Giorgia Dalla Libera Marchiori, Emma Dearing, Alun Kirby, Marie Yang, Adnane Achour, Johan Nilvebrant, Per Åke Nygren, Laura Plant, Aras Kadioglu, Birgitta Henriques-Normark

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is a major cause of mortality and morbidity globally, and the leading cause of death in children under 5 years old. The pneumococcal cytolysin pneumolysin (PLY) is a major virulence determinant known to induce pore-dependent pro-inflammatory responses. These inflammatory responses are driven by PLY–host cell membrane cholesterol interactions, but binding to a host cell receptor has not been previously demonstrated. Here, we discovered a receptor for PLY, whereby pro-inflammatory cytokine responses and Toll-like receptor signalling are inhibited following PLY binding to the mannose receptor C type 1 (MRC-1) in human dendritic cells and mouse alveolar macrophages. The cytokine suppressor SOCS1 is also upregulated. Moreover, PLY–MRC-1 interactions mediate pneumococcal internalization into non-lysosomal compartments and polarize naive T cells into an interferon-γlow, interleukin-4high and FoxP3+ immunoregulatory phenotype. In mice, PLY-expressing pneumococci colocalize with MRC-1 in alveolar macrophages, induce lower pro-inflammatory cytokine responses and reduce neutrophil infiltration compared with a PLY mutant. In vivo, reduced bacterial loads occur in the airways of MRC-1-deficient mice and in mice in which MRC-1 is inhibited using blocking antibodies. In conclusion, we show that pneumococci use PLY–MRC-1 interactions to downregulate inflammation and enhance bacterial survival in the airways. These findings have important implications for future vaccine design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalNature Microbiology
Early online date12 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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