Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) are mobile elements that are induced by a helper bacteriophage to excise and replicate and to be encapsidated in phage-like particles smaller than those of the helper, leading to high-frequency transfer. SaPI mobilization is helper phage specific; only certain SaPIs can be mobilized by a particular helper phage. Staphylococcal phage 80α can mobilize every SaPI tested thus far, including SaPI1, SaPI2 and SaPIbov1. Phage 80, on the other hand, cannot mobilize SaPI1, and φ11 mobilizes only SaPIbov1. In order to better understand the relationship between SaPIs and their helper phages, the genomes of phages 80 and 80α were sequenced, compared with other staphylococcal phage genomes, and analyzed for unique features that may be involved in SaPI mobilization.
The Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island SaPI1 carries the gene for the toxic shock syndrome toxin TSST-1 and can be mobilized by infection with S. aureus helper phage 80α. SaPI1 depends on the helper phage for excision, replication and genome packaging. The SaPI1 transducing particles are comprised of proteins encoded by the helper phage, but have a smaller capsid commensurate with the smaller size of the SaPI1 genome. Previous studies identified only 80α-encoded proteins in mature SaPI1 virions, implying that the presumptive SaPI1 capsid size determination function(s) must act transiently during capsid assembly or maturation. In this study, 80α and SaPI1 procapsids were produced by induction of phage mutants lacking functional 80α or SaPI1 small terminase subunits. By cryo-electron microscopy, these procapsids have a rounded shape and an internal scaffolding core. Mass spectrometry (MS) was used to identify all 80α-encoded structural proteins in 80α and SaPI1 procapsids, including several that had not previously been found in the mature capsids. In addition, SaPI1 procapsids contained at least one SaPI1-encoded protein that has been implicated genetically in capsid size determination. MS on full-length phage proteins showed that the major capsid protein and the scaffolding protein are N-terminally processed in both 80α and SaPI1 procapsids.
mass spectrometry; cryo; electron microscopy; bacteriophage; assembly; scaffolding protein
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island 1 (SaPI1) is a mobile genetic element that carries genes for several superantigen toxins. SaPI1 is normally stably integrated into the host genome, but can become mobilized by “helper” bacteriophage 80α, leading to the packaging of SaPI1 genomes into phage-like transducing particles that are composed of structural proteins supplied by the helper phage, but having smaller capsids. We show that the SaPI1-encoded protein gp6 is necessary for efficient formation of small capsids. The NMR structure of gp6 reveals a dimeric protein with a helix-loop-helix motif similar to that of bacteriophage scaffolding proteins. The gp6 dimer matches internal densities that bridge capsid subunits in cryo-EM reconstructions of SaPI1 procapsids, suggesting that gp6 acts as an internal scaffolding protein in capsid size determination.
bacteriophage; mobilization; virus assembly; NMR spectroscopy; cryo-electron microscopy
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) have an intimate relationship with temperate staphylococcal phages. During phage growth, SaPIs are induced to replicate and are efficiently encapsidated into special small phage heads commensurate with their size. We have analyzed by amino acid sequencing and mass spectrometry the protein composition of the specific SaPI particles. This has enabled identification of major capsid and tail proteins and a putative portal protein. As expected, all these proteins were phage encoded. Additionally, these analyses suggested the existence of a protein required for the formation of functional phage but not SaPI particles. Mutational analysis demonstrated that the phage proteins identified were involved only in the formation and possibly the function of SaPI or phage particles, having no role in other SaPI or phage functions.
Staphylococcal superantigen-carrying pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) are discrete, chromosomally integrated units of ~15 kilobases that are induced by helper phages to excise and replicate. SaPI DNA is then efficiently encapsidated in phage-like infectious particles, leading to extremely high frequencies of intra- as well as intergeneric transfer1–3. In the absence of helper phage lytic growth, the island is maintained in a quiescent prophage-like state by a global repressor, Stl, which controls expression of most of the SaPI genes4. Here we show that SaPI derepression is effected by a specific, non-essential phage protein that binds to Stl, disrupting the Stl–DNA complex and thereby initiating the excision-replication-packaging cycle of the island. Because SaPIs require phage proteins to be packaged5,6, this strategy assures that SaPIs will be transferred once induced. Several different SaPIs are induced by helper phage 80α and, in each case, the SaPI commandeers a different non-essential phage protein for its derepression. The highly specific interactions between different SaPI repressors and helper-phage-encoded antirepressors represent a remarkable evolutionary adaptation involved in pathogenicity island mobilization.
The cloning, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of a novel staphylococcal phage dUTPase is reported. This protein contains a specific polypeptide insertion that is potentially responsible for modulation of expression of superantigenicity island genes.
Staphylococcus aureus superantigen-carrying pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) play a determinant role in spreading virulence genes among bacterial populations that constitute a major health hazard. Repressor (Stl) proteins are responsible for the transcriptional regulation of pathogenicity island genes. Recently, a derepressing interaction between the repressor Stl SaPIbov1 and dUTPase from the ϕ11 helper phage has been suggested [Tormo-Más et al. (2010 ▶), Nature (London), 465, 779–782]. Towards elucidation of the molecular mechanism of this interaction, this study reports the expression, purification and X-ray analysis of ϕ11 dUTPase, which contains a phage-specific polypeptide segment that is not present in other dUTPases. Crystals were obtained using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method at room temperature. Data were collected to 2.98 Å resolution from one type of crystal. The crystal of ϕ11 dUTPase belonged to the cubic space group I23, with unit-cell parameters a = 98.16 Å, α = β = γ = 90.00°.
ϕ11 helper phage; dUTPases
SaPIbov2 is a member of the SaPI family of staphylococcal pathogenicity islands and is very closely related to SaPIbov1. Typically, certain temperate phages can induce excision and replication of one or more of these islands and can package them into special small phage-like particles commensurate with their genome sizes (referred to as the excision-replication-packaging [ERP] cycle). We have studied the phage-SaPI interaction in some depth using SaPIbov2, with special reference to the role of its integrase. We demonstrate here that SaPIbov2 can be induced to replicate by different staphylococcal phages. After replication, SaPIbov2 is efficiently encapsidated and transferred to recipient organisms, including different non-Staphylococcus aureus staphylococci, where it integrates at a SaPI-specific attachment site, attC, by means of a self-coded integrase (Int). Phages that cannot induce the SaPIbov2 ERP cycle can transfer the island by recA-dependent classical generalized transduction and can also transfer it by a novel mechanism that requires the expression of SaPIbov2 int in the recipient but not in the donor. It is suggested that this mechanism involves the encapsidation of standard transducing fragments containing the intact island followed by int-mediated excision, circularization, and integration in the recipient.
Bacteriophages are involved in many aspects of the spread and establishment of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus, including the mobilization of genetic elements known as pathogenicity islands (SaPIs), which carry genes for superantigen toxins and other virulence factors. SaPIs are packaged into phage-like transducing particles using proteins supplied by the helper phage. We have used cryo-electron microscopy and icosahedral reconstruction to determine the structure of the procapsid and the mature capsid of 80α, a bacteriophage that can mobilize several different SaPIs. The 80α capsid has T = 7 icosahedral symmetry with the capsid protein organized into pentameric and hexameric clusters that interact via prominent trimeric densities. The 80α capsid protein was modeled based on the capsid protein fold of bacteriophage HK97, and fitted into the 80α reconstructions. The models show that the trivalent interactions are mediated primarily by a 22-residue β hairpin structure called the P loop that is not found in HK97. Capsid expansion is associated with a conformational switch in the spine helix that is propagated throughout the subunit, unlike the domain rotation mechanism in phages HK97 or P22.
procapsid; structure; assembly; three-dimensional reconstruction; pathogenicity island
SaPIs are molecular pirates that exploit helper bacteriophages for their own high frequency mobilization. One striking feature of helper exploitation by SaPIs is redirection of the phage capsid assembly pathway to produce smaller phage-like particles with T=4 icosahedral symmetry rather than T=7 bacteriophage capsids. Small capsids can accommodate the SaPI genome but not that of the helper phage, leading to interference with helper propagation. Previous studies identified two proteins encoded by the prototype element SaPI1, gp6 and gp7, in SaPI1 procapsids but not in mature SaPI1 particles. Dimers of gp6 form an internal scaffold, aiding fidelity of small capsid assembly. Here we show that both SaPI1 gp6 (CpmB) and gp7 (CpmA) are necessary and sufficient to direct small capsid formation. Surprisingly, failure to form small capsids did not restore wild-type levels of helper phage growth, suggesting an additional role for these SaPI1 proteins in phage interference.
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island; procapsid; bacteriophage assembly; cryo-electron microscopy; molecular piracy
In 2008, an unusual strain of methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA68111), producing both Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) and toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1), was isolated from a fatal case of necrotizing pneumonia. Because PVL/TSST-1 co-production in S. aureus is rare, we characterized the molecular organization of these toxin genes in strain 68111. MSSA68111 carries the PVL genes within a novel temperate prophage we call ФPVLv68111 that is most similar, though not identical, to phage ФPVL – a phage type that is relatively rare worldwide. The TSST-1 gene (tst) in MSSA68111 is carried on a unique staphylococcal pathogenicity island (SaPI) we call SaPI68111. Features of SaPI68111 suggest it likely arose through multiple major recombination events with other known SaPIs. Both ФPVLv68111 and SaPI68111 are fully mobilizable and therefore transmissible to other strains. Taken together, these findings suggest that hypervirulent S. aureus have the potential to emerge worldwide.
The phage-related chromosomal islands (PRCIs) were first identified in Staphylococcus aureus as highly mobile, superantigen-encoding genetic elements known as the S. aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs). These elements are characterized by a specific set of phage-related functions that enable them to use the phage reproduction cycle for their own transduction and inhibit phage reproduction in the process. SaPIs produce many phage-like infectious particles; their streptococcal counterparts have a role in gene regulation but may not be infectious. These elements therefore represent phage satellites or parasites, not defective phages. In this Review, we discuss the shared genetic content of PRCIs, their life cycle and their ability to be transferred across large phylogenetic distances.
Cocolonization of human mucosal surfaces causes frequent encounters between various staphylococcal species, creating opportunities for the horizontal acquisition of mobile genetic elements. The majority of Staphylococcus aureus toxins and virulence factors are encoded on S. aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs). Horizontal movement of SaPIs between S. aureus strains plays a role in the evolution of virulent clinical isolates. Although there have been reports of the production of toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST-1), enterotoxin, and other superantigens by coagulase-negative staphylococci, no associated pathogenicity islands have been found in the genome of Staphylococcus epidermidis, a generally less virulent relative of S. aureus. We show here the first evidence of a composite S. epidermidis pathogenicity island (SePI), the product of multiple insertions in the genome of a clinical isolate. The taxonomic placement of S. epidermidis strain FRI909 was confirmed by a number of biochemical tests and multilocus sequence typing. The genome sequence of this strain was analyzed for other unique gene clusters and their locations. This pathogenicity island encodes and expresses staphylococcal enterotoxin C3 (SEC3) and staphylococcal enterotoxin-like toxin L (SElL), as confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunoblotting. We present here an initial characterization of this novel pathogenicity island, and we establish that it is stable, expresses enterotoxins, and is not obviously transmissible by phage transduction. We also describe the genome sequence, excision, replication, and packaging of a novel bacteriophage in S. epidermidis FRI909, as well as attempts to mobilize the SePI element by this phage.
The relationship between the composition of SaPI1 transducing particles and those of helper phage 80α was investigated by direct comparison of virion proteins. Twelve virion proteins were identified by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry; all were present in both 80α and SaPI1 virions, and all were encoded by 80α. No SaPI1-encoded proteins were detected. This confirms the prediction that SaPI1 is encapsidated in a virion assembled from helper phage-encoded proteins.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) CC22 SCCmecIV is a successful hospital-associated (HA-) MRSA, widespread throughout the world, and now the dominant clone in UK hospitals. We have recently shown that MRSA CC22 is a particularly fit clone, and it rose to dominance in a UK hospital at the same time as it began acquiring an increased range of antibiotic resistances. These resistances were not accumulated by individual CC22 isolates, but appear to shuffle frequently between isolates of the MRSA CC22 population. Resistances are often encoded on mobile genetic elements (MGEs) that include plasmids, transposons, bacteriophage and S. aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs). Using multi-strain whole genome microarrays, we show that there is enormous diversity of MGE carried within a MRSA CC22 SCCmecIV population, even among isolates from the same hospital and time period. MGE profiles were so variable that they could be used to track the spread of variant isolates within the hospital. We exploited this to show that the majority of patients colonised with MRSA at hospital admission that subsequently became infected were infected with their own colonising isolate. Our studies reveal MGE spread, stability, selection and clonal adaptation to the healthcare setting may be key to the success of HA-MRSA clones, presumably by allowing rapid adaptation to antibiotic exposure and new hosts.
Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; Mobile genetic element; Fitness; Evolution
The SaPIs and their relatives are phage satellites and are unique among the known bacterial pathogenicity islands in their ability to replicate autonomously. They possess a phage-like replicon, which is organized as two sets of iterons arrayed symmetrically to flank an AT-rich region that is driven to melt by the binding of a SaPI-specific initiator (Rep) to the flanking iterons. Extensive deletion analysis has revealed that Rep can bind to a single iteron, generating a simple shift in a gel mobility assay; when bound on both sides, a second retarded band is seen, suggesting independent binding. Binding to both sites of the ori is necessary but not sufficient to melt the AT-rich region and initiate replication. For these processes, virtually the entire origin must be present. Since SaPI replication can be initiated on linear DNA, it is suggested that bilateral binding may be necessary to constrain the intervening DNA to enable Rep-driven melting.
pathogenicity island; replication origin; replication initiation; SaPI
Previous studies have demonstrated that a proportion of Staphylococcus aureus isolates from bovine mastitis coproduce toxic shock syndrome toxin (TSST) and staphylococcal enterotoxin C (SEC). In this study, molecular genetic analysis of one such strain, RF122, revealed the presence of a 15,891-bp putative pathogenicity island (SaPIbov) encoding the genes for TSST (tst), the SEC bovine variant (sec-bovine), and a gene (sel) which encodes an enterotoxin-like protein. The island contains 21 open reading frames specifying hypothetical proteins longer than 60 amino acids including an integrase-like gene. The element is bordered by 74-bp direct repeats at the left and right junctions, and the integration site lies adjacent to the 3′ end of the GMP synthase gene (gmps) in the S. aureus chromosome. SaPIbov contains a central region of sequence identity with the previously characterized tst pathogenicity island SaPI1 (J. A. Lindsay et al., Mol. Microbiol. 29:527–543, 1998). A closely related strain, RF120, of the same multilocus enzyme electrophoretic type, random amplified polymorphic DNA type, and ribotype, does not contain the island, implying that the element is mobile and that a recent insertion/deletion event has taken place. TSST and TSST/SEC-deficient mutants of S. aureus strain RF122 were constructed by allele replacement. In vitro bovine Vβ-specific lymphocyte expansion analysis by culture supernatants of wild-type strains and of tst and sec-bovine allele replacement mutants revealed that TSST stimulates BTB13-specific T cells whereas SEC-bovine stimulates BTB93-specific T cells. This suggests that the presence of SaPIbov may contribute to modulation of the bovine immune response.
Our understanding of staphylococcal pathogenesis depends on reliable genetic tools for gene expression analysis and tracing of bacteria. Here, we have developed and evaluated a series of novel versatile Escherichia coli-staphylococcal shuttle vectors based on PCR-generated interchangeable cassettes. Advantages of our module system include the use of (i) staphylococcal low-copy-number, high-copy-number, thermosensitive and theta replicons and selectable markers (choice of erythromycin, tetracycline, chloramphenicol, kanamycin, or spectinomycin); (ii) an E. coli replicon and selectable marker (ampicillin); and (iii) a staphylococcal phage fragment that allows high-frequency transduction and an SaPI fragment that allows site-specific integration into the Staphylococcus aureus chromosome. The staphylococcal cadmium-inducible Pcad-cadC and constitutive PblaZ promoters were designed and analyzed in transcriptional fusions to the staphylococcal β-lactamase blaZ, the Vibrio fischeri luxAB, and the Aequorea victoria green fluorescent protein reporter genes. The modular design of the vector system provides great flexibility and variety. Questions about gene dosage, complementation, and cis-trans effects can now be conveniently addressed, so that this system constitutes an effective tool for studying gene regulation of staphylococci in various ecosystems.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clonal complex (CC) 398 has emerged from pigs to cause human infections in Europe and North America. We used a new 62-strain S. aureus microarray (SAM-62) to compare genomes of isolates from three geographical areas (Belgium, Denmark, and Netherlands) to understand how CC398 colonizes different mammalian hosts. The core genomes of 44 pig isolates and 32 isolates from humans did not vary. However, mobile genetic element (MGE) distribution was variable including SCCmec. φ3 bacteriophage and human specificity genes (chp, sak, scn) were found in invasive human but not pig isolates. SaPI5 and putative ruminant specificity gene variants (vwb and scn) were common but not pig specific. Virulence and resistance gene carriage was host associated but country specific. We conclude MGE exchange is frequent in CC398 and greatest among populations in close contact. This feature may help determine epidemiological associations among isolates of the same lineage.
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; host specificity; mobile genetic elements; zoonoses; bacteriophages
Comparative genomics demonstrated that the chromosomes from bacteria and their viruses (bacteriophages) are coevolving. This process is most evident for bacterial pathogens where the majority contain prophages or phage remnants integrated into the bacterial DNA. Many prophages from bacterial pathogens encode virulence factors. Two situations can be distinguished: Vibrio cholerae, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, and Clostridium botulinum depend on a specific prophage-encoded toxin for causing a specific disease, whereas Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium harbor a multitude of prophages and each phage-encoded virulence or fitness factor makes an incremental contribution to the fitness of the lysogen. These prophages behave like “swarms” of related prophages. Prophage diversification seems to be fueled by the frequent transfer of phage material by recombination with superinfecting phages, resident prophages, or occasional acquisition of other mobile DNA elements or bacterial chromosomal genes. Prophages also contribute to the diversification of the bacterial genome architecture. In many cases, they actually represent a large fraction of the strain-specific DNA sequences. In addition, they can serve as anchoring points for genome inversions. The current review presents the available genomics and biological data on prophages from bacterial pathogens in an evolutionary framework.
Strains of Staphylococcus aureus, an important human pathogen, display up to 20% variability in their genome sequence, and most sequence information is available for human clinical isolates that have not been subjected to genetic analysis of virulence attributes. S. aureus strain Newman, which was also isolated from a human infection, displays robust virulence properties in animal models of disease and has already been extensively analyzed for its molecular traits of staphylococcal pathogenesis. We report here the complete genome sequence of S. aureus Newman, which carries four integrated prophages, as well as two large pathogenicity islands. In agreement with the view that S. aureus Newman prophages contribute important properties to pathogenesis, fewer virulence factors are found outside of the prophages than for the highly virulent strain MW2. The absence of drug resistance genes reflects the general antibiotic-susceptible phenotype of S. aureus Newman. Phylogenetic analyses reveal clonal relationships between the staphylococcal strains Newman, COL, NCTC8325, and USA300 and a greater evolutionary distance to strains MRSA252, MW2, MSSA476, N315, Mu50, JH1, JH9, and RF122. However, polymorphism analysis of two large pathogenicity islands distributed among these strains shows that the two islands were acquired independently from the evolutionary pathway of the chromosomal backbones of staphylococcal genomes. Prophages and pathogenicity islands play central roles in S. aureus virulence and evolution.
The neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) stimulates the growth of low inocula of Escherichia coli in a minimal medium (SAPI) supplemented with serum (SAPI+serum) and induces the production of an “autoinducer” (AI) which, in turn, promotes E. coli growth in the absence of NE. Given the importance of NE, epinephrine, and their corresponding adrenergic agonists and antagonists in clinical medicine, we sought to investigate the molecular basis for these observations. Using a variety of NE precursors, metabolites, and therapeutic agents, we demonstrated that their ability to stimulate E. coli growth in SAPI+serum is dependent on the presence of a catechol (1,2-dihydroxybenzene) moiety with maximal activity requiring a two-carbon substituent incorporating a terminal primary amine. Serum contains the iron-binding glycoprotein, transferrin, and when SAPI+serum was supplemented with sufficient Fe3+ to saturate transferrin, growth inhibition was relieved. Other metal cations, including Mg2+, Ca2+, and Zn2+, had no effect. These data suggested that the stimulation of E. coli growth by NE in SAPI+serum may involve the catecholate siderophore, enterobactin, a cyclic triester of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoylserine. Consistent with this hypothesis, E. coli strains with mutations in ferrienterobactin transport (fepA or tonB) or enterobactin biosynthesis (entA) did not respond to NE. Furthermore, NE induced expression of the ferrienterobactin receptor, FepA, during growth in SAPI+serum. The enterobactin degradation product, 2,3-dihydroxybenzoylserine (DBS) was as effective as NE in stimulating the growth of E. coli and mutations in fepA or tonB abolished the DBS-dependent growth stimulation. In contrast to NE, however, DBS stimulated the growth of the entA mutant. Moreover, after growth in an iron-limited M9 medium in the absence of NE, ethyl acetate extracts of the E. coli entA+ parent but not of the entA mutant contained AI, i.e., stimulated the growth of E. coli in SAPI+serum. Taken together, these data show that when low numbers of E. coli are inoculated into SAPI+serum, NE, DBS, and related catecholamines induce the enterobactin iron uptake system. This, in turn, facilitates iron sequestration from transferrin and indicates that the AI present in NE-conditioned SAPI+serum medium is enterobactin and its DBS breakdown products.
Both phage ø11 and 83A, when present as prophage or when used as helper phage, induce competence for transfection and transformation to the same level in Staphylococcus aureus, strain 8325-4. Cells lysogenized with certain temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants of phage ø11 show competence at the nonpermissive temperature (41 C) without production of infectious phages. Phage ø11ts allele 31 can neither as a prophage nor as a helper phage develop competence under nonpermissive conditions. This mutant appears, therefore, to be mutated in the region of the phage genome controlling competence. The competence level for both transfection and transformation is increased by superinfecting strain 8325-4 (ø11) or 8325-4 (83A) at high multiplicities with phage ø11 with some of its mutants or with phage 83A. This superinfection enhancement appears to require protein synthesis but not deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis as judged from studies with inhibitors of macromolecular synthesis. Besides the phage particle, no extracellular or cell-bound factors so far detected can induce competence. The phage-induced product conferring competence is rapidly synthesized by strain 8325-4 (tsø1131) after shift to permissive conditions, but requires deoxyribonucleic acid and protein synthesis to be expressed. Recombination between the sus mutants of phage ø11 of Kretschmer and Egan and tsø1131 indicate that competence is controlled by an early gene in the lytic cycle which may be expressed also in lysogenic cells. The phage product inducing competence appears to have a half-life of 10 to 15 min in the conditional lethal mutant at shift to nonpermissive temperature. Ultraviolet inactivation of phage ø11 infectivity occurs more rapidly than inactivation of competence induction. In fact, the number of transformants is increased at low doses of irradiation. Competence induction is, however, decreased at high does of ultraviolet irradiation.
Temperate bacteriophages play an important role in the pathogenicity of Staphylococcus aureus, for instance, by mediating the horizontal gene transfer of virulence factors. Here we established a classification scheme for staphylococcal prophages of the major Siphoviridae family based on integrase gene polymorphism. Seventy-one published genome sequences of staphylococcal phages were clustered into distinct integrase groups which were related to the chromosomal integration site and to the encoded virulence gene content. Analysis of three marker modules (lysogeny, tail, and lysis) for phage functional units revealed that these phages exhibit different degrees of genome mosaicism. The prevalence of prophages in a representative S. aureus strain collection consisting of 386 isolates of diverse origin was determined. By linking the phage content to dominant S. aureus clonal complexes we could show that the distribution of bacteriophages varied remarkably between lineages, indicating restriction-based barriers. A comparison of colonizing and invasive S. aureus strain populations revealed that hlb-converting phages were significantly more frequent in colonizing strains.
Antibiotics that interfere with DNA replication and cell viability activate the SOS response. In Staphylococcus aureus, the antibiotic-induced SOS response promotes replication and high-frequency horizontal transfer of pathogenicity island-encoded virulence factors. Here we report that β-lactams induce a bona fide SOS response in S. aureus, characterized by the activation of the RecA and LexA proteins, the two master regulators of the SOS response. Moreover, we show that β-lactams are capable of triggering staphylococcal prophage induction in S. aureus lysogens. Consequently, and as previously described for SOS induction by commonly used fluoroquinolone antibiotics, β-lactam-mediated phage induction also resulted in replication and high-frequency transfer of the staphylococcal pathogenicity islands, showing that such antibiotics may have the unintended consequence of promoting the spread of bacterial virulence factors.
The immergence and dissemination of multidrug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus in recent years have expedited the
research on the discovery of novel anti-staphylococcal agents promptly. Bacteriophages have long been showing tremendous
potentialities in curing the infections caused by various pathogenic bacteria including S. aureus. Thus far, only a few virulent
bacteriophages, which do not carry any toxin-encoding gene but are capable of eradicating staphylococcal infections, were
reported. Based on the codon usage analysis of sixteen S. aureus phages, previously three phages were suggested to be useful as the
anti-staphylococcal agents. To search for additional S. aureus phages suitable for phage therapy, relative synonymous codon usage
bias has been investigated in the protein-coding genes of forty new staphylococcal phages. All phages appeared to carry A and T
ending codons. Several factors such as mutational pressure, translational selection and gene length seemed to be responsible for the
codon usage variation in the phages. Codon usage indeed varied phage to phage. Of the phages, phages G1, Twort, 66 and Sap-2
may be extremely lytic in nature as majority of their genes possess high translational efficiency, indicating that these phages may be
employed in curing staphylococcal infections.
Staphylococcal phage; Synonymous codon usage; Translational selection; Mutational bias; Phage therapy