An M28-derived group A streptococcal strain deleted for the gene encoding M protein was converted to M+ by introduction of a plasmid carrying emm6, the structural gene for type 6 M protein from strain D471. The reconstituted M+ strain, JRS2, resists phagocytosis in human blood and is opsonized by anti-M6 hyperimmune serum, but not by anti-M28 serum. Immunofluorescent microscopy and ELISA demonstrate the presence of M protein on its surface. In addition, JRS2 removes opsonic antibodies from hyperimmune rabbit sera generated by immunization with purified ColiM6 protein and with a synthetic amino-terminal peptide derived from M6. Immunization of rabbits with JRS2 generates opsonic anti-M6 antibodies. These results indicate that the cloned emm6 gene contains the information necessary to convert a phagocytosis-sensitive streptococcus to phagocytosis resistance. Furthermore, it also contains the determinants for M type specificity and those required to elicit opsonic antibodies. It thus appears to determine all the traits associated with M protein.

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