H-kininogen (high-molecular-mass kininogen, HK) is the precursor of the vasoactive peptide hormone bradykinin (BK). Previous work has demonstrated that HK binds to Streptococcus pyogenesthrough M-proteins, fibrous surface proteins and important virulence factors of these bacteria. Here we find that M-protein-expressing bacteria absorb HK from human plasma. The HK bound to the bacteria was found to be cleaved, and analysis of the degradation pattern suggested that the cleavage of HK at the bacterial surface is associated with the release of BK. Moreover, addition of activated plasma prekallikrein to bacteria preincubated with human plasma, resulted in BK release. This mechanism, by which a potent vasoactive and proinflammatory peptide is generated at the site of infection, should influence the host–parasite relationship during S. pyogenes infections.

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