Staphylococcus aureus coagulases are exploitable yet stable public goods in clinically relevant conditions.
ABSTRACT: Coagulation is an innate defense mechanism intended to limit blood loss and trap invading pathogens during infection. However, Staphylococcus aureus has the ability to hijack the coagulation cascade and generate clots via secretion of coagulases. Although many S. aureus have this characteristic, some do not. The population dynamics regarding this defining trait have yet to be explored. We report here that coagulases are public goods that confer protection against antimicrobials and immune factors within a local population or community, thus promoting growth and virulence. By utilizing variants of a methicillin-resistant S. aureus we infer that the secretion of coagulases is a cooperative trait, which is subject to exploitation by invading mutants that do not produce the public goods themselves. However, overexploitation, "tragedy of the commons," does not occur at clinically relevant conditions. Our micrographs indicate this is due to spatial segregation and population viscosity. These findings emphasize the critical role of coagulases in a social evolution context and provide a possible explanation as to why the secretion of these public goods is maintained in mixed S. aureus communities.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus is a prominent etiological agent of suppurative abscesses. In principle, abscess formation and purulent exudate are classical physiological features of healing and tissue repair. However, S. aureus deploys two coagulases that can usurp this classical host response and form distinct abscess lesions. Here, we establish that during coinfection with coagulase producers and non-producers, coagulases are shared public goods that contribute to staphylococcal persistence, abscess formation, and disease progression. Coagulase-negative mutants that do not produce the public goods themselves are able to exploit those cooperatively secreted by producers and thereby thrive during coinfection at the expense of others. This study shows the importance of social interactions among pathogens concerning clinical outcomes.
Project description:During infection, Staphylococcus aureus secretes two coagulases (Coa and von Willebrand factor binding protein [vWbp]), which, following an association with host prothrombin and fibrinogen, form fibrin clots and enable the establishment of staphylococcal disease. Within the genomes of different S. aureus isolates, coagulase gene sequences are variable, and this has been exploited for a classification of types. We show here that antibodies directed against the variable prothrombin binding portion of coagulases confer type-specific immunity through the neutralization of S. aureus clotting activity and protection from staphylococcal disease in mice. By combining variable portions of coagulases from North American isolates into hybrid Coa and vWbp proteins, a subunit vaccine that provided protection against challenge with different coagulase-type S. aureus strains in mice was derived.
Project description:The two coagulases, von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp) and Coagulase (Coa), are critical virulence factors in several animal models of invasive Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) infections. These proteins are part of an intricate system of proteins that S. aureus uses to assemble a fibrinogen (Fg)/fibrin protective shield surrounding itself. This shield allows the microorganism to evade clearance by the host phagocytic cells. The coagulases can non-proteolytically activate the zymogen prothrombin to convert Fg to fibrin and promote the Fg/fibrin shield formation. The coagulases also bind directly to Fg and the interaction between Coa and Fg has been previously characterized in some detail. However, the mechanism(s) by which vWbp interacts with Fg remains unclear. Here, we show that vWbp and Coa have distinct interactions with Fg, despite being structurally similar. Coa binds with a significantly higher affinity to soluble Fg than to Fg coated on a plastic surface, whereas vWbp demonstrates no preference between the two forms of Fg. The two coagulases appear to target different sites on Fg, as they do not compete with each other in binding to Fg. Similar to Coa, both the N- and C-terminal halves of vWbp (vWbp-N, vWbp-C, respectively) harbor Fg-binding activities. The higher affinity Fg-binding activity resides in vWbp-N; whereas, the C-terminal region of Coa encompasses the major Fg-binding activity. Peptides constituting the previously identified Coa/Efb1 Fg-binding motif fail to inhibit vWbp-C from binding to Fg, indicating that vWbp-C lacks a functional homolog to this motif. Interestingly, the N-terminal prothrombin-binding domains of both coagulases recognize the Fg ?-chain, but they appear to interact with different sequence motifs in the host protein. Collectively, our data provide insight into the complex interactions between Fg and the S. aureus coagulases.
Project description:The bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus seeds abscesses in host tissues to replicate at the center of these lesions, protected from host immune cells via a pseudocapsule. Using histochemical staining, we identified prothrombin and fibrin within abscesses and pseudocapsules. S. aureus secretes two clotting factors, coagulase (Coa) and von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp). We report here that Coa and vWbp together are required for the formation of abscesses. Coa and vWbp promote the non-proteolytic activation of prothrombin and cleavage of fibrinogen, reactions that are inhibited with specific antibody against each of these molecules. Coa and vWbp specific antibodies confer protection against abscess formation and S. aureus lethal bacteremia, suggesting that coagulases function as protective antigens for a staphylococcal vaccine.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a frequent cause of catheter-related infections. S. aureus secretes the coagulases staphylocoagulase and von Willebrand factor-binding protein, both of which form a staphylothrombin complex upon binding to prothrombin. Although fibrinogen and fibrin facilitate the adhesion of S. aureus to catheters, the contribution of staphylothrombin-mediated fibrin has not been examined. In this study, we use a S. aureus mutant lacking both coagulases (?coa/vwb) and dabigatran, a pharmacological inhibitor of both staphylothrombin and thrombin, to address this question. Genetic absence or chemical inhibition of pathogen-driven coagulation reduced both fibrin deposition and the retention of S. aureus on catheters in vitro. In a mouse model of jugular vein catheter infection, dabigatran reduced bacterial load on jugular vein catheters, as well as metastatic kidney infection. Importantly, inhibition of staphylothrombin improved the efficacy of vancomycin treatment both in vitro and in the mouse model.
Project description:Microbial populations often rely on the cooperative production of extracellular 'public goods' molecules. The cooperative nature of public good production may lead to minimum viable population sizes, below which populations collapse. In addition, 'cooperator' public goods producing individuals face evolutionary competition from non-producing mutants, or 'freeloaders'. Thus, public goods cooperators should be resilient not only to the invasion of freeloaders, but also to ecological perturbations that may push their populations below a sustainable threshold. Through a mathematical analysis of the Ecological Public Goods Game, we show that game parameters that improve the cooperating population's stability to freeloader invasion also lead to a low ecological resilience. Complex regulatory strategies mimicking those used by microbes in nature may allow cooperators to beat this trade-off and become evolutionarily stable to invading freeloaders while at the same time maximizing their ecological resilience. Our results thus identify the coupling between resilience to evolutionary and ecological challenges as a key factor for the long-term viability of public goods cooperators.
Project description:Many microbes cooperatively secrete extracellular products that favorably modify their environment. Consistent with social evolution theory, structured habitats play a role in maintaining these traits in microbial model systems, by localizing the benefits and separating strains that invest in these products from 'cheater' strains that benefit without paying the cost. It is thus surprising that many unicellular, well-mixed microalgal populations invest in extracellular toxins that confer ecological benefits upon the entire population, for example, by eliminating nutrient competitors (allelopathy). Here we test the hypotheses that microalgal exotoxins are (1) exploitable public goods that benefit all cells, regardless of investment, or (2) nonexploitable private goods involved in cell-level functions. We test these hypotheses with high-toxicity (TOX+) and low-toxicity (TOX-) strains of the damaging, mixotrophic microalga Prymnesium parvum and two common competitors: green algae and diatoms. TOX+ actually benefits from dense populations of competing green algae, which can also be prey for P. parvum, yielding a relative fitness advantage over coexisting TOX-. However, with nonprey competitors (diatoms), TOX- increases in frequency over TOX+, despite benefiting from the exclusion of diatoms by TOX+. An evolutionary unstable, ecologically devastating public good may emerge from traits selected at lower levels expressed in novel environments.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus is a formidable pathogen capable of causing infections in different sites of the body in a variety of vertebrate animals, including humans and livestock. A major contribution to the success of S. aureus as a pathogen is the plethora of virulence factors that manipulate the host's innate and adaptive immune responses. Many of these immune modulating virulence factors are secreted toxins, cofactors for activating host zymogens, and exoenzymes. Secreted toxins such as pore-forming toxins and superantigens are highly inflammatory and can cause leukocyte cell death by cytolysis and clonal deletion, respectively. Coagulases and staphylokinases are cofactors that hijack the host's coagulation system. Exoenzymes, including nucleases and proteases, cleave and inactivate various immune defense and surveillance molecules, such as complement factors, antimicrobial peptides, and surface receptors that are important for leukocyte chemotaxis. Additionally, some of these secreted toxins and exoenzymes can cause disruption of endothelial and epithelial barriers through cell lysis and cleavage of junction proteins. A unique feature when examining the repertoire of S. aureus secreted virulence factors is the apparent functional redundancy exhibited by the majority of the toxins and exoenzymes. However, closer examination of each virulence factor revealed that each has unique properties that have important functional consequences. This chapter provides a brief overview of our current understanding of the major secreted virulence factors critical for S. aureus pathogenesis.
Project description:Bacteria frequently cooperate by sharing secreted metabolites such as enzymes and siderophores. The expression of such 'public good' traits can be interdependent, and studies on laboratory systems have shown that trait linkage affects eco-evolutionary dynamics within bacterial communities. Here, we examine whether linkage among social traits occurs in natural habitats by examining investment levels and correlations between five public goods (biosurfactants, biofilm components, proteases, pyoverdines and toxic compounds) in 315 Pseudomonas isolates from soil and freshwater communities. Our phenotypic assays revealed that (i) social trait expression profiles varied dramatically; (ii) correlations between traits were frequent, exclusively positive and sometimes habitat-specific; and (iii) heterogeneous (specialised) trait repertoires were rarer than homogeneous (unspecialised) repertoires. Our results show that most isolates lie on a continuum between a 'social' type producing multiple public goods, and an 'asocial' type showing low investment into social traits. This segregation could reflect local adaptation to different microhabitats, or emerge from interactions between different social strategies. In the latter case, our findings suggest that the scope for competition among unspecialised isolates exceeds the scope for mutualistic exchange of different public goods between specialised isolates. Overall, our results indicate that complex interdependencies among social traits shape microbial lifestyles in nature.
Project description:Bacteria produce a wide variety of exoproducts that favourably modify their environment and increase their fitness. These are often termed 'public goods' because they are costly for individuals to produce and can be exploited by non-producers (cheats). The outcome of conflict over public goods is dependent upon the prevailing environment and the phenotype of the individuals in competition. Many bacterial species use quorum sensing (QS) signalling molecules to regulate the production of public goods. QS, therefore, determines the cooperative phenotype of individuals, and influences conflict over public goods. In addition to their regulatory functions, many QS molecules have additional properties that directly modify the prevailing environment. This leads to the possibility that QS molecules could influence conflict over public goods indirectly through non-signalling effects, and the impact of this on social competition has not previously been explored. The Pseudomonas aeruginosa QS signal molecule PQS is a powerful chelator of iron which can cause an iron starvation response. Here, we show that PQS stimulates a concentration-dependent increase in the cooperative production of iron scavenging siderophores, resulting in an increase in the relative fitness of non-producing siderophore cheats. This is likely due to an increased cost of siderophore output by producing cells and a concurrent increase in the shared benefits, which accrue to both producers and cheats. Although PQS can be a beneficial signalling molecule for P. aeruginosa, our data suggest that it can also render a siderophore-producing population vulnerable to competition from cheating strains. More generally, our results indicate that the production of one social trait can indirectly affect the costs and benefits of another social trait.