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The host lymphatic network represents an important conduit for pathogen dissemination. Indeed, the lethal human pathogen group A streptococcus has a predilection to induce pathology in the lymphatic system and draining lymph nodes, however the underlying basis and subsequent consequences for disease outcome are currently unknown. Here we report that the hyaluronan capsule of group A streptococci is a crucial virulence determinant for lymphatic tropism in vivo, and further, we identify the lymphatic vessel endothelial receptor-1 as the critical host receptor for capsular hyaluronan in the lymphatic system. Interference with this interaction in vivo impeded bacterial dissemination to local draining lymph nodes and, in the case of a hyper-encapsulated M18 strain, redirected streptococcal entry into the blood circulation, suggesting a pivotal role in the manifestation of streptococcal infections. Our results reveal a novel function for bacterial capsular polysaccharide in directing lymphatic tropism, with potential implications for disease pathology.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Pathog

Publication Date





Animals, Bacteremia, Bacterial Adhesion, Bacterial Capsules, COS Cells, Cells, Cultured, Cercopithecus aethiops, Glycoproteins, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Humans, Hyaluronic Acid, Immunity, Innate, Lymph Nodes, Lymphatic Vessels, Male, Mice, Inbred Strains, Mice, Knockout, Mutation, Recombinant Proteins, Streptococcal Infections, Streptococcus pyogenes, Vesicular Transport Proteins