Document Type


Publication Date



C-reactive protein (CRP) binds to several species of bacterial pathogens including Streptococcus pneumoniae. Experiments in mice have revealed that one of the functions of CRP is to protect against pneumococcal infection by binding to pneumococci and activating the complement system. For protection, however, CRP must be injected into mice within a few hours of administering pneumococci, that is, CRP is protective against early-stage infection but not against late-stage infection. It is assumed that CRP cannot protect if pneumococci got time to recruit complement inhibitor factor H on their surface to become complement attack-resistant. Since the conformation of CRP is altered under inflammatory conditions and altered CRP binds to immobilized factor H also, we hypothesized that in order to protect against late-stage infection, CRP needed to change its structure and that was not happening in mice. Accordingly, we engineered CRP molecules (E-CRP) which bind to factor H on pneumococci but do not bind to factor H on any host cell in the blood. We found that E-CRP, in cooperation with wild-type CRP, was protective regardless of the timing of administering E-CRP into mice. We conclude that CRP acts via two different conformations to execute its anti-pneumococcal function and a model for the mechanism of action of CRP is proposed. These results suggest that pre-modified CRP, such as E-CRP, is therapeutically beneficial to decrease bacteremia in pneumococcal infection. Our findings may also have implications for infections with antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal strains and for infections with other bacterial species that use host proteins to evade complement-mediated killing.

Copyright Statement

© 2020 Ngwa, Singh, Gang and Agrawal. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.