Thymidine-dependent Staphylococcus aureus small-colony variants are associated with extensive alterations in regulator and virulence gene expression profiles.
ABSTRACT: Chronic airway infection is a hallmark of cystic fibrosis (CF) and many CF patients are infected persistently by Staphylococcus aureus. Thymidine-dependent trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (SXT)-resistant S. aureus small-colony variants (SCVs), often in combination with isogenic normal S. aureus phenotypes, are highly prevalent and persistent in airway secretions of CF patients due to long-term SXT therapy (B. Kahl, M. Herrmann, A. S. Everding, H. G. Koch, K. Becker, E. Harms, R. A. Proctor, and G. Peters, J. Infect. Dis. 177:1023-1029, 1998). In this report, SCVs were compared to normal S. aureus by transcription analysis of important regulator (sigB, sarA, and agr) and virulence (alpha-hemolysin, hla, and protein A, spa) genes. Growth curve analyses revealed longer doubling times and lower final densities for SCVs than for normal strains. sigB activity was measured by transcription analysis of the sigB target gene asp23. For nearly all SCVs, expression of all regulators was decreased as assessed by asp23 reverse transcription-PCR for sigB and Northern analysis for sarA and agr. These results are in agreement with diminished hla signals in all SCVs and increased spa signals in 5 of 10 SCVs compared to the isogenic normal S. aureus. Both supplementation of SCVs with thymidine and activation of the agr quorum-sensing system by the supernatant of the isogenic normal strain reversed transcription to almost normal levels. In conclusion, multiple changes in growth characteristics and in regulator and virulence gene expression render SCVs less virulent and allow them to survive in the hostile environment present in the airways of CF patients, thereby illustrating adaptation of the bacteria during long-term persistence.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are often found together in the airways of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. It was previously shown that the P. aeruginosa exoproduct 4-hydroxy-2-heptylquinoline-N-oxide (HQNO) suppresses the growth of S. aureus and provokes the emergence of small-colony variants (SCVs). The presence of S. aureus SCVs as well as biofilms have both been associated with chronic infections in CF.<h4>Results</h4>We demonstrated that HQNO stimulates S. aureus to form a biofilm in association with the formation of SCVs. The emergence of SCVs and biofilm production under HQNO exposure was shown to be dependent on the activity of the stress- and colonization-related alternative sigma factor B (SigB). Analysis of gene expression revealed that exposure of a prototypical S. aureus strain to HQNO activates SigB, which was leading to an increase in the expression of the fibronectin-binding protein A and the biofilm-associated sarA genes. Conversely, the quorum sensing accessory gene regulator (agr) system and the alpha-hemolysin gene were repressed by HQNO. Experiments using culture supernatants from P. aeruginosa PAO1 and a double chamber co-culture model confirmed that P. aeruginosa stimulates biofilm formation and activates SigB in a S. aureus strain isolated from a CF patient. Furthermore, the supernatant from P. aeruginosa mutants unable to produce HQNO induced the production of biofilms by S. aureus to a lesser extent than the wild-type strain only in a S. aureus SigB-functional background.<h4>Conclusions</h4>These results suggest that S. aureus responds to HQNO from P. aeruginosa by forming SCVs and biofilms through SigB activation, a phenomenon that may contribute to the establishment of chronic infections in CF patients.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen that causes a range of infections from acute invasive to chronic and difficult-to-treat. Infection strategies associated with persisting S. aureus infections are bacterial host cell invasion and the bacterial ability to dynamically change phenotypes from the aggressive wild-type to small colony variants (SCVs), which are adapted for intracellular long-term persistence. The underlying mechanisms of the bacterial switching and adaptation mechanisms appear to be very dynamic, but are largely unknown. Here, we analyzed the role and the crosstalk of the global S. aureus regulators agr, sarA and SigB by generating single, double and triple mutants, and testing them with proteome analysis and in different in vitro and in vivo infection models. We were able to demonstrate that SigB is the crucial factor for adaptation in chronic infections. During acute infection, the bacteria require the simultaneous action of the agr and sarA loci to defend against invading immune cells by causing inflammation and cytotoxicity and to escape from phagosomes in their host cells that enable them to settle an infection at high bacterial density. To persist intracellularly the bacteria subsequently need to silence agr and sarA. Indeed agr and sarA deletion mutants expressed a much lower number of virulence factors and could persist at high numbers intracellularly. SigB plays a crucial function to promote bacterial intracellular persistence. In fact, ?sigB-mutants did not generate SCVs and were completely cleared by the host cells within a few days. In this study we identified SigB as an essential factor that enables the bacteria to switch from the highly aggressive phenotype that settles an acute infection to a silent SCV-phenotype that allows for long-term intracellular persistence. Consequently, the SigB-operon represents a possible target to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies against chronic and therapy-refractory infections.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus causes acute and chronic forms of infection, the latter often associated with formation of a biofilm. It has previously been demonstrated that mutation of atl, codY, rot, sarA, and sigB limits biofilm formation in the USA300 strain LAC while mutation of agr, fur, and mgrA has the opposite effect. Here we used a murine sepsis model to assess the impact of these same loci in acute infection. Mutation of agr, atl, and fur had no impact on virulence, while mutation of mgrA and rot increased virulence. In contrast, mutation of codY, sarA, and sigB significantly attenuated virulence. Mutation of sigB resulted in reduced accumulation of AgrA and SarA, while mutation of sarA resulted in reduced accumulation of AgrA, but this cannot account for the reduced virulence of sarA or sigB mutants because the isogenic agr mutant was not attenuated. Indeed, as assessed by accumulation of alpha toxin and protein A, all of the mutants we examined exhibited unique phenotypes by comparison to an agr mutant and to each other. Attenuation of the sarA, sigB and codY mutants was correlated with increased production of extracellular proteases and global changes in extracellular protein profiles. These results suggest that the inability to repress the production of extracellular proteases plays a key role in attenuating the virulence of S. aureus in acute as well as chronic, biofilm-associated infections, thus opening up the possibility that strategies aimed at the de-repression of protease production could be used to broad therapeutic advantage. They also suggest that the impact of codY, sarA, and sigB on protease production occurs via an agr-independent mechanism.
Project description:Salicylic acid (SAL) may impact Staphylococcus aureus virulence by activating the sigB operon (rsbU-V-W-sigB), thus leading to reductions in alpha-toxin production and decreased fibronectin binding (L. I. Kupferwasser et al., J. Clin. Investig. 112:222-233, 2003). As these prior studies were performed in strain RN6390 (an rsbU mutant) and its rsbU-repaired variant, SH1000, the current investigation was designed to determine if the SAL effect occurs via rsbU- and/or rsbV-dependent pathways in an rsbU-intact S. aureus strain (FDA486). We thus quantified the transcription from two sigB-dependent promoters (asp23 and sarA P3) in FDA486 in response to SAL exposure in vitro, using isogenic single-knockout constructs of rsbU, rsbV, or rsbW and a green fluorescent protein reporter system. SAL induced sarA P3 and asp23 promoter activities in a dose-dependent manner in the parental strain. In contrast, sigB activation by SAL was progressively more mitigated in the rsbU and rsbV mutants. As predicted, SAL caused significant reductions in both alpha-toxin production and fibrinogen and fibronectin binding in the parental strain. The extent of these reductions, compared with the parent, was reduced in the rsb mutants (rsbV > rsbU), especially at low SAL concentrations. Since generation of the free SigB protein usually requires a sequential rsbU-V-W-sigB activation cascade, the present phenotypic and genotypic data suggest key roles for both rsbU and rsbV in SAL-mediated activation of sigB in strains with a fully intact sigB operon.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus small-colony variants (SCVs) are persistent pathogenic bacteria characterized by slow growth and, for many of these strains, an increased ability to form biofilms and to persist within host cells. The virulence-associated gene expression profile of SCVs clearly differs from that of prototypical strains and is often influenced by SigB rather than by the agr system. One objective of this work was to confirm the role of SigB in the control of the expression of virulence factors involved in biofilm formation and intracellular persistence of SCVs. This study shows that extracellular proteins are involved in the formation of biofilm by three SCV strains, which, additionally, have a low biofilm-dispersing activity. It was determined that SigB activity modulates biofilm formation by strain SCV CF07-S and is dominant over that of the agr system without being solely responsible for the repression of proteolytic activity. On the other hand, the expression of fnbA and the control of nuclease activity contributed to the SigB-dependent formation of biofilm of this SCV strain. SigB was also required for the replication of CF07-S within epithelial cells and may be involved in the colonization of lungs by SCVs in a mouse infection model. This study methodically investigated SigB activity and associated mechanisms in the various aspects of SCV pathogenesis. Results confirm that SigB activity importantly influences the production of virulence factors, biofilm formation and intracellular persistence for some clinical SCV strains.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus produces a wide array of cell surface and extracellular proteins involved in virulence. Expression of these virulence factors is tightly controlled by numerous regulatory loci, including agr, sar, sigB, sae, and arl, as well as by a number of proteins with homology to SarA. Rot (repressor of toxins), a SarA homologue, was previously identified in a library of transposon-induced mutants created in an agr-negative strain by screening for restored protease and alpha-toxin. To date, all of the SarA homologues have been shown to act as global regulators of virulence genes. Therefore, we investigated the extent of transcriptional regulation of staphylococcal genes by Rot. We compared the transcriptional profile of a rot agr double mutant to that of its agr parental strain by using custom-made Affymetrix GeneChips. Our findings indicate that Rot is not only a repressor but a global regulator with both positive and negative effects on the expression of S. aureus genes. Our data also indicate that Rot and agr have opposing effects on select target genes. These results provide further insight into the role of Rot in the regulatory cascade of S. aureus virulence gene expression.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus causes chronic and relapsing infections, which may be difficult to treat. So-called small colony variants (SCVs) have been associated with chronic infections and their occurrence has been shown to increase under antibiotic pressure, low pH and intracellular localization. In clinics, S. aureus isolated from invasive infections often show a dysfunction in the accessory gene regulator (agr), a major virulence regulatory system in S. aureus. To assess whether intracellular environment and agr function influence SCV formation, an infection model was established using lung epithelial cells and skin fibroblasts. This allowed analyzing intracellular survival and localization of a panel of S. aureus wild type strains and their isogenic agr knock out mutants as well as a natural dysfunctional agr strain by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Furthermore, bacterial colonies were quantified after 1, 3, and 5 days of intracellular survival by time-lapse analysis to determine kinetics of colony appearance and SCV formation. Here, we show that S. aureus strains with an agr knock out predominantly resided in a neutral environment, whereas wild type strains and an agr complemented strain resided in an acidic environment. S. aureus agr mutants derived from an intracellular environment showed a higher percentage of SCVs as compared to their corresponding wild type strains. Neutralizing acidic phagolysosomes with chloroquine resulted in a significant reduction of SCVs in S. aureus wild type strain 6850, but not in its agr mutant indicating a pH dependent formation of SCVs in the wild type strain. The in-depth understanding of the interplay between intracellular persistence, agr function and pH should help to identify new therapeutic options facilitating the treatment of chronic S. aureus infections in the future.
Project description:Some of the staphylococcal superantigen-like (SSL) proteins SSL5, SSL7, SSL9, and SSL11 act as immunomodulatory proteins in Staphylococcus aureus. However, little is known about their regulatory mechanisms. We determined the expression levels of ssl5 and ssl8 in seven clinically important S. aureus strains and their regulatory mechanisms in the Newman strain, which had the highest ssl5 and ssl8 expression. Independent comparisons of ssl5 or ssl8 coding and upstream sequences in these strains identified multiple haplotypes that did not correlate with the differential expression of ssl5 and ssl8, suggesting the role of additional regulatory elements. Using knockout mutant strains of known S. aureus global regulators such as Agr, Sae, and SigB in the Newman strain, we showed that both ssl5 and ssl8 were induced by Sae and repressed by Agr, suggesting that Sae and Agr are the positive and the negative regulators, respectively, of these two ssl genes. Moreover, we observed upregulation of sae in the agr mutant and upregulation of agr in the sae mutant compared with the isogenic Newman strain, suggesting that the Agr and Sae may be inhibiting each other. The SigB mutation did not affect ssl5 and ssl8 expression, but they were downregulated in the agr/sigB double mutant, indicating that SigB probably acts synergistically with Agr in their upregulation.
Project description:Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (SXT) is a possible alternative for the treatment of community- and hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) due to the susceptibility of most MRSA strains to the drug. However, after long-term treatment with SXT, thymidine-dependent (TD) SXT-resistant small-colony variants (SCVs) emerge. In TD-SCVs, mutations of thymidylate synthase ([TS] thyA) occur. Until now, it has never been systematically investigated that SXT is triggering the induction and/or selection of TD-SCVs. In our study, we performed induction, reversion, and competition experiments in vitro and in vivo using a chronic mouse pneumonia model to determine the impact of SXT on the emergence of TD-SCVs. SCVs were characterized by light and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and auxotrophism testing. Short-term exposure of S. aureus to SXT induced the TD-SCV phenotype in S. aureus SH1000, while selection of TD-SCVs with thyA mutations occurred after long-term exposure. In reversion experiments with clinical and laboratory TD-SCVs, all revertants carried compensating mutations at the initially identified mutation site. Competition experiments in vitro and in vivo revealed a survival and growth advantage of the ?thyA mutant under low-thymidine availability and SXT exposure although this advantage was less profound in vivo. Our results show that SXT induces the TD-SCV phenotype after short-term exposure, while long-term exposure selects for thyA mutations, which provide an advantage for TD-SCVs under specified conditions. Thus, our results further an understanding of the dynamic processes occurring during SXT exposure with induction and selection of S. aureus TD-SCVs.
Project description:The expression of genes involved in the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus is known to be controlled by global regulatory loci, including agr, sarA, saeRS, arlRS, and sarA-like genes. As part of our continuing efforts to understand the regulatory mechanisms that involve sarA-like genes, we describe here the characterization of a novel transcriptional regulator called SarX, a member of the SarA protein family. The transcription of sarX was growth phase dependent and was expressed maximally during the stationary phase of growth, which was significantly decreased in the mgrA mutant. MgrA acted as an activator of sarX expression as confirmed by transcriptional fusion and Northern blot analyses. Purified MgrA protein bound to the upstream region of the sarX promoter as demonstrated by gel shift assay. The expression levels of various potential target genes involved in virulence and regulation, specifically those affected by sarA and mgrA, were analyzed with isogenic sarX mutant strains. Our data indicated that SarX acted as a repressor of the agr locus and consequently target genes regulated by the agr system. We propose that SarX is an important regulator in the SarA protein family and may be part of the common pathway by which agr and members of the sarA gene family control virulence in S. aureus.