Kubes et al. show that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) survive and proliferate inside Kupffer cells. Intracellular MRSA is resistant to neutrophil-killing and antibiotics treatment and, when released into the circulation, can infect other organs.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia is reaching epidemic proportions causing morbidity, mortality, and chronic disease due to relapses, suggesting an intracellular reservoir. Using spinning-disk confocal intravital microscopy to track MRSA-GFP in vivo, we identified that within minutes after intravenous infection MRSA is primarily sequestered and killed by intravascular Kupffer cells (KCs) in the liver. However, a minority of the Staphylococci overcome the KC’s antimicrobial defenses. These bacteria survive and proliferate for many days within this intracellular niche, where they remain undetected by recruited neutrophils. Over time, the KCs lyse, releasing bacteria into the circulation, enabling dissemination to other organs such as the kidneys. Vancomycin, the antibiotic of choice to treat MRSA bacteremia, could not penetrate the KCs to eradicate intracellular MRSA. However, based on the intravascular location of these specific macrophages, we designed a liposomal formulation of vancomycin that is efficiently taken up by KCs and diminished the intracellular MRSA. Targeting the source of the reservoir dramatically protected the liver but also dissemination to other organs, and prevented mortality. This vancomycin formulation strategy could help treat patients with Staphylococcal bacteremia without a need for novel antibiotics by targeting the previously inaccessible intracellular reservoir in KCs.
Host niches can differ strongly regarding, for example, oxygen tension, pH or nutrient availability. Staphylococcus aureus and other staphylococci are common colonizers of human epithelia as well as important human pathogens. The phenotypes that they show in different host environments, and the corresponding bacterial transcriptomes and proteomes, are currently under intense investigation. In this review, we examine the available literature describing staphylococcal phenotypes, such as expression of virulence factors, gross morphologic characteristics and growth patterns, in various physiological environments. Going forward, these studies will help researchers and clinicians to form an enhanced and more detailed picture of the interactions existing between the host and staphylococci as some of its most frequent colonizers and invaders.
gene expression; host–pathogen interaction; niche adaptation; staphylococci
The role of the recently described interleukin-32 (IL-32) in Staphylococcus aureus-induced mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland, is unclear. We determined expression of IL-32, IL-6, and IL-8 in S. aureus- and Escherichia coli-infected bovine mammary gland epithelial cells. Using live bacteria, we found that in S. aureus-infected cells, induction of IL-6 and IL-8 expression was less pronounced than in E. coli-infected cells. Notably, IL-32 expression was decreased in S. aureus-infected cells, while it was increased in E. coli-infected cells. We identified the staphylococcal phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) peptides as key contributors to these effects, as IL-32, IL-6, and IL-8 expression by epithelial cells exposed to psm mutant strains was significantly increased compared to that in cells exposed to the isogenic S. aureus wild-type strain, indicating that PSMs inhibit the production of these interleukins. The use of genetically complemented strains confirmed this observation. Inasmuch as the decreased expression of IL-32, which is involved in dendritic cell maturation, impairs immune responses, our results support a PSM-dependent mechanism that allows for the development of chronic S. aureus-related mastitis.
The skin is a site of constant dialogue between the immune system and commensal bacteria. However, the molecular mechanisms that allow us to tolerate the presence of skin commensals without eliciting destructive inflammation are unknown. Using a model system to study the antigen-specific response to S. epidermidis, we demonstrated that skin colonization during a defined period of neonatal life was required to establish immune tolerance to commensal microbes. This crucial window was characterized by an abrupt influx of highly activated regulatory T (Treg) cells into neonatal skin. Selective inhibition of this Treg cell wave completely abrogated tolerance. Thus, the host-commensal relationship in the skin relied on a unique Treg cell population that mediated tolerance to bacterial antigens during a defined developmental window. This suggests that the cutaneous microbiome composition in neonatal life is crucial in shaping adaptive immune responses to commensals, and disrupting these interactions may have enduring health implications.
During 2005–2014, community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections increased in Shanghai, China. Most infections were caused by sequence type 59 S. aureus that lacked Panton-Valentine leukocidin. This finding challenges the notion that Panton-Valentine leukocidin is necessary for epidemiologic success of community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus.
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; community-acquired infections; community-associated infections; Panton-Valentine leukocidin; PVL; bacteria; Shanghai; China
Staphylococci are commensal bacteria living on the epithelial surfaces of humans and other mammals. Many staphylococci, including the dangerous pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, can cause severe disease when they breach the epithelial barrier. Both during their commensal life and during infection, staphylococci need to evade mechanisms of innate host defense, of which antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) play a key role in particular on the skin. Mechanisms that staphylococci have developed to evade the bactericidal activity of AMPs are manifold, comprising repulsion of AMPs via alteration of cell wall and membrane surface charges, proteolytic inactivation, sequestration, and secretion. Furthermore, many staphylococci form biofilms, which represents an additional way of protection from antimicrobial agents, including AMPs. Finally, staphylococci can sense the presence of AMPs by sensor/regulator systems that control many of those resistance mechanisms.
Staphylococcus aureus; Staphylococcus epidermidis; antimicrobial peptides; bacterial resistance
The virulence of many bacterial pathogens, including the important human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, depends on the secretion of frequently large amounts of toxins. Toxin production involves the need for the bacteria to make physiological adjustments for energy conservation. While toxins are primarily targets of gene regulation, such changes may be accomplished by regulatory functions of the toxins themselves. However, mechanisms by which toxins regulate gene expression have remained poorly understood. We show here that the staphylococcal phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) toxins have gene regulatory functions that, in particular, include inducing expression of their own transport system by direct interference with a GntR-type repressor protein. This capacity was most pronounced in PSMs with low cytolytic capacity, demonstrating functional specification among closely related members of that toxin family during evolution. Our study presents a molecular mechanism of gene regulation by a bacterial toxin that adapts bacterial physiology to enhanced toxin production.
Toxins play a major role in many bacterial diseases. When toxins are produced during infection, the bacteria need to balance this energy-consuming task with other physiological processes. However, it has remained poorly understood how toxins can impact gene expression to trigger such adaptations. We found that specific members of a toxin family in the major human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus have evolved for gene regulatory purposes. These specific toxins interact with a DNA-binding regulator protein to enable production of the toxin export machinery and ascertain that the machinery is not expressed when toxins are not made and it is not needed. Our study gives mechanistic insight into how toxins may directly adjust bacterial physiology to times of toxin production during infection.
Staphylococcus aureus is a leading cause of human infections worldwide. The pathogen produces numerous molecules that can interfere with recognition and binding by host innate immune cells, an initial step required for the ingestion and subsequent destruction of microbes by phagocytes. To better understand the interaction of this pathogen with human immune cells, we compared the association of S. aureus and S. epidermidis with leukocytes in human blood. We found that a significantly greater proportion of B cells associated with S. epidermidis relative to S. aureus. Complement components and complement receptors were important for the binding of B cells with S. epidermidis. Experiments using staphylococci inactivated by ultraviolet radiation and S. aureus isogenic deletion mutants indicated that S. aureus secretes molecules regulated by the SaeR/S two-component system that interfere with the ability of human B cells to bind this bacterium. We hypothesize that the relative inability of B cells to bind S. aureus contributes to the microbe’s success as a human pathogen.
Cutaneous abscess infections are difficult to treat with current therapies and alternatives to conventional antibiotics are needed. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms that govern abscess pathology should reveal therapeutic interventions for these recalcitrant infections. Here we demonstrated that the stringent stress response employed by bacteria to cope and adapt to environmental stressors was essential for the formation of lesions, but not bacterial growth, in a methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cutaneous abscess mouse model. To pharmacologically confirm the role of the stringent response in abscess formation, a cationic peptide that causes rapid degradation of the stringent response mediator, guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp), was employed. The therapeutic application of this peptide strongly inhibited lesion formation in mice infected with Gram-positive MRSA and Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Overall, we provide insights into the mechanisms governing abscess formation and a paradigm for treating multidrug resistant cutaneous abscesses.
•Universal stringent stress response mediators drive abscess formation.•Targeting stress response reduces the severity of cutaneous abscess infections.•Pharmacological suppression of S. aureus cutaneous toxin production.•Paradigm for treating Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial abscess infections.
Staphylococcus aureus; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; ppGpp; Cationic peptide; DJK-5
Staphylococcus aureus remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. This is to a large extent due to antibiotic-resistant strains, in particular methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). While the toll of invasive MRSA infections appears to decrease in U.S. hospitals, the rate of community-associated MRSA infections remains constant and there is a surge of MRSA in many other countries. This situation calls for continuing if not increased efforts to find novel strategies to combat MRSA infections.
This review will provide an overview of current investigational antibiotics in clinical development (up to phase II), and of therapeutic antibodies and alternative drugs against S. aureus in preclinical and clinical development, including a short description of the mechanism of action and a presentation of microbiological and clinical data.
Increased recent antibiotic development efforts and results from pathogenesis research have led to several new antibiotics and alternative drugs, as well as a more informed selection of targets for vaccination efforts against MRSA. This developing portfolio of novel anti-staphylococcal drugs will hopefully provide us with additional and more efficient ways to combat MRSA infections in the near future and prevent us from running out of treatment options, even if new resistances arise.
antibiotics; antibiotic resistance; alternative therapeutics; quorum-sensing; quorum-sensing blockers; antibody; Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen that can cause two categories of severe infections. Acute infections are characterized by pronounced toxin production, while chronic infections often involve biofilm formation. However, it is poorly understood how S. aureus controls the expression of genes associated with acute versus biofilm-associated virulence. We here identified an AraC-type transcriptional regulator, Rsp, that promotes the production of key toxins while repressing major biofilm-associated genes and biofilm formation. Genome-wide transcriptional analysis and modeling of regulatory networks indicated that upregulation of the accessory gene regulator (Agr) and downregulation of the ica operon coding for the biofilm exopolysaccharide polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA) were central to the regulatory impact of Rsp on virulence. Notably, the Rsp protein directly bound to the agrP2 and icaADBC promoters, resulting in strongly increased levels of the Agr-controlled toxins phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) and alpha-toxin and reduced production of PIA. Accordingly, Rsp was essential for the development of bacteremia and skin infection, representing major types of acute S. aureus infection. Our findings give important insight into how S. aureus adapts the expression of its broad arsenal of virulence genes to promote different types of disease manifestations and identify the Rsp regulator as a potential target for strategies to control acute S. aureus infection.
PSM-mec is a secreted virulence factor that belongs to the phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) family of amphipathic, alpha-helical peptide toxins produced by Staphylococcus species. All known PSMs are core genome-encoded with the exception of PSM-mec, whose gene is found in specific sub-types of SCCmec methicillin resistance mobile genetic elements present in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci. In addition to the cytolytic translational product, PSM-mec, the psm-mec locus encodes a regulatory RNA. In S. aureus, the psm-mec locus influences cytolytic capacity, methicillin resistance, biofilm formation, cell spreading, and the expression of other virulence factors, such as other PSMs, which results in a significant impact on immune evasion and disease. However, these effects are highly strain-dependent, which is possibly due to differences in PSM-mec peptide vs. psm-mec RNA-controlled effects. Here, we summarize the functional properties of PSM-mec and the psm-mec RNA molecule and their roles in staphylococcal pathogenesis and physiology.
Staphylococcus aureus; Staphylococcus epidermidis; phenol-soluble modulin; PSM-mec; regulatory RNA; SCCmec; virulence
Distress intolerance (DI), the inability to tolerate stressful experiences, has been linked to multiple psychiatric conditions and maladaptive coping patterns. Although DI is often considered a trait-like variable, evidence indicates that self-report and behavioral indices of DI can be manipulated by contextual factors. Understanding such contextual influences is important given evidence of unexpected variability in these presumed trait-like measures over brief intervals. The current study examined the influence of context (manipulated by priming concepts of “Interminability” and “Brevity”) in predicting behavioral persistence, in relation to self-reported DI. Results indicated that priming Brevity was associated with terminating a cold-pressor task more quickly. Self-reported DI was linked to earlier termination, but there was no interaction between self-reported DI and priming condition. Results indicate that contextual cues modulate performance on behavioral measures of DI. Hence, models of DI should consider both trait-like and contextual factors in understanding variability in DI measures.
Distress Intolerance; Priming; Behavioral Persistence; Contextual Factors; Measurement Variability
Sepsis caused by Gram-positive bacterial pathogens is a major fatal disease but its molecular basis remains elusive. Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) has been implicated in the orchestration of inflammation and sepsis but its role appears to vary for different pathogen species and clones. Accordingly, Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates differ substantially in their capacity to activate TLR2. Here we show that strong TLR2 stimulation depends on high-level production of phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) peptides in response to the global virulence activator Agr. PSMs are required for mobilizing lipoproteins, the TLR2 agonists, from the staphylococcal cytoplasmic membrane. Notably, the course of sepsis caused by PSM-deficient S. aureus is similar in wild-type and TLR2-deficient mice, but TLR2 is required for protection of mice against PSM-producing S. aureus. Thus, a crucial role of TLR2 depends on agonist release by bacterial surfactants. Modulation of this process may lead to new therapeutic strategies against Gram-positive infections.
The role played by human protein TLR2 in inflammation and sepsis varies for different bacterial pathogens. Here, Hanzelmann et al. show that the differential abilities of Staphylococcus aureus strains to activate TLR2 depend on their production of peptides that release lipoproteins known to act as TLR2 agonists.
The use of d-cycloserine (DCS) as a cognitive enhancer to augment exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) represents a promising new translational research direction with the goal to accelerate and optimize treatment response for anxiety disorders. Some studies suggest that DCS may not only augment extinction learning but could also facilitate fear memory reconsolidation. Therefore, the effect of DCS may depend on fear levels reported at the end of exposure sessions. This paper presents the rationale and design for an ongoing randomized controlled trial examining the relative efficacy of tailoring DCS administration based on exposure success (i.e. end fear levels) during a 5-session group CBT protocol for social anxiety disorder (n = 156). Specifically, tailored post-session DCS administration will be compared against untailored post-session DCS, untailored pre-session DCS, and pill placebo in terms of reduction in social anxiety symptoms and responder status. In addition, a subset of participants (n = 96) will undergo a fear extinction retention experiment prior to the clinical trial in which they will be randomly assigned to receive either DCS or placebo prior to extinguishing a conditioned fear. The results from this experimental paradigm will clarify the mechanism of the effects of DCS on exposure procedures. This study aims to serve as the first step toward developing an algorithm for the personalized use of DCS during CBT for social anxiety disorder, with the ultimate goal of optimizing treatment outcome for anxiety disorders.
ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02066792
cognitive-behavioral therapy; exposure therapy; d-cycloserine; social anxiety disorder; social phobia
Understanding virulence is vital for the development of novel therapeutics to target infections with community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), which cause an ongoing epidemic in the United States and are on a global rise. However, what defines virulence particularly of global CA-MRSA lineages is poorly understood. Threatening a vast population, the predominant Asian CA-MRSA lineage ST59 is of major epidemiological importance. However, there have been no molecular analyses using defined virulence gene deletion mutants in that lineage as of yet. Here, we compared virulence in skin, lung, and blood infection models of ST59 CA-MRSA isolates with geographically matched hospital-associated MRSA isolates. We selected a representative ST59 CA-MRSA isolate based on toxin expression and virulence characteristics, and produced isogenic gene deletion mutants of important CA-MRSA virulence determinants (α-toxin, PSM α, Agr) in that isolate for in-vitro and in-vivo analyses. Our results demonstrate strongly enhanced virulence of ST59 CA-MRSA over hospital-associated lineages, supporting the notion that enhanced virulence is characteristic for CA-MRSA. Furthermore, they show strong and significant contribution of Agr, α-toxin, and PSMα to pathogenesis of ST59 CA-MRSA skin, lung, and blood infection, emphasizing the value of drug development efforts targeted toward those virulence determinants.
Novel Staphylococcus aureus clones continue to emerge that cause infections in otherwise healthy people. One example is the sequence type (ST) 398 lineage, which we show here is increasing in importance as a significant cause of community-associated (CA) human infections in China. We have a profound lack of understanding about what determines the considerable virulence potential of such newly emerging clones. Information about the contribution to virulence of the more recently discovered ESAT-6 secretion system (ESS) has remained particularly scarce. The Chinese ST398 isolates exhibited significantly increased expression of ESS genes as compared to predominant hospital-associated clones, which we found is likely due to increased expression of the accessory gene regulator (Agr) system and control of ESS by Agr. Importantly, deletion of essB in ST398 resulted in significantly reduced resistance to neutrophil killing and decreased virulence in murine skin and blood infection models. Our results demonstrate a key function of ESS in promoting virulence and mechanisms of resistance to innate host defense in an important emerging CA-S. aureus lineage. They suggest that ESS has a so far underestimated role in promoting aggressive virulence and epidemiological success of S. aureus.
Phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) are amphipathic, pro-inflammatory proteins secreted by most Staphylococcus aureus isolates. This study tested the hypothesis that in vitro PSM production levels are associated with specific clinical phenotypes.
177 methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates from infective endocarditis (IE), skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI), and hospital-acquired/ventilator-associated pneumonia (HAP) were matched by geographic origin, then genotyped using spa-typing. In vitro PSM production was measured by high performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Statistical analysis was performed using Chi-squared or Kruskal–Wallis tests as appropriate.
Spa type 1 was significantly more common in SSTI isolates (62.7% SSTI; 1.7% IE; 16.9% HAP; p < 0.0001) while HAP and IE isolates were more commonly spa type 2 (0% SSTI; 37.3% IE; 40.7% HAP; p < 0.0001). USA300 isolates produced the highest levels of PSMs in vitro. SSTI isolates produced significantly higher quantities of PSMα1-4, PSMβ1, and δ-toxin than other isolates (p < 0.001). These findings persisted when USA300 isolates were excluded from analysis.
Phenol soluble modulin; MRSA; Skin and soft tissue infection; Pneumonia; Endocarditis
Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen that causes healthcare-associated and community-acquired infections. Moreover, the growing prevalence of multiresistant strains requires the development of alternative methods to antibiotic therapy. One effective therapeutic option may be antimicrobial photodynamic inactivation (aPDI). Recently, S. aureus strain-dependent response to PDI was demonstrated, although the mechanism underlying this phenomenon remains unexplained. The aim of the current study was to investigate statistically relevant correlations between the functionality and polymorphisms of agr gene determined for 750 methicillin-susceptible and methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains and their responses to photodynamic inactivation using protoporphyrin IX. An AluI and RsaI digestion of the agr gene PCR product revealed existing correlations between the determined digestion profiles (designations used for the first time) and the PDI response. Moreover, the functionality of the agr system affected S. aureus susceptibility to PDI. Based on our results, we conclude that the agr gene may be a genetic factor affecting the strain dependent response to PDI.
accessory gene regulator; gene polymorphism; photoinactivation; Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen and a leading cause of death worldwide. Phenol-soluble modulins (PSMs) have recently emerged as a novel toxin family defining the virulence potential of highly aggressive S. aureus isolates. PSMs have multiple roles in staphylococcal pathogenesis, causing lysis of red and white blood cells, stimulating inflammatory responses and contributing to biofilm development and the dissemination of biofilm-associated infections. Moreover, the pronounced capacity of PSMs to kill human neutrophils after phagocytosis may explain failures in anti-staphylococcal vaccine development. Here, we will review the biochemical and genetic properties of PSMs and their role in S. aureus pathogenesis, and suggest potential avenues to target PSMs for anti-staphylococcal drug development.
A new understanding of the mechanisms of memory retrieval and reconsolidation
holds the potential for improving exposure-based treatments. Basic research indicates that
following fear extinction, safety and fear memories may compete, raising the possibility
of return of fear. One possible solution is to modify original fear memories through
reconsolidation interference, reducing the likelihood of return of fear. Post-retrieval
extinction is a behavioral method of reconsolidation interference that has been explored
in the context of conditioned fear and appetitive memory paradigms. This meta-analysis
examines the magnitude of post-retrieval extinction effects and potential moderators of
these effects. A PubMed and PsycINFO search was conducted through June 2014. Sixty-three
comparisons examining post-retrieval extinction for preventing the return of fear or
appetitive responses in animals or humans met inclusion criteria. Post-retrieval
extinction demonstrated a significant, small-to-moderate effect (g = .40)
for further reducing the return of fear in humans and a significant, large effect
(g = 0.89) for preventing the return of appetitive responses in animals
relative to standard extinction. For fear outcomes in animals, effects were small
(g = 0.21) and non-significant, but moderated by the number of animals
housed together and the duration of time between post-retrieval extinction/extinction and
test. Across paradigms, these findings support the efficacy of this pre-clinical strategy
for preventing the return of conditioned fear and appetitive responses. Overall, findings
to date support the continued translation of post-retrieval extinction research to human
and clinical applications, with particular application to the treatment of anxiety,
traumatic stress, and substance use disorders.
post-retrieval extinction; reconsolidation; fear conditioning; appetitive memory; cognitive-behavior therapy; exposure therapy
The pathogenesis of joint infections is not well understood. In particular, we do not know why these infections respond poorly to antibiotic treatment. Here we show that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a major cause of joint infections, forms exceptionally strong biofilmlike aggregates in human synovial fluid (SF), to an extent significantly exceeding biofilm formation observed in growth medium or serum. Screening a transposon bank identified bacterial fibronectin- and fibrinogen-binding proteins as important for the formation of macroscopic clumps in SF, suggesting an important role of fibrin-containing clots in the formation of bacterial aggregates during joint infection. Pretreatment of SF with plasmin led to a strongly reduced formation of aggregates and increased susceptibility to antibiotics. These results give important insight into the pathogenesis of staphylococcal joint infection and the mechanisms underlying resistance to treatment. Furthermore, they point toward a potential novel approach for treating joint infections.
Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; antibiotic resistance; joint infection; septic arthritis; biofilm
Despite the success of both pharmacologic and cognitive-behavioral interventions for the treatment of anxiety disorders, the combination of these modalities in adults has not resulted in substantial improvements in outcome relative to either strategy alone, raising questions about whether there are interfering effects that attenuate the magnitude of combination treatment benefits. In this article, we introduce an accounting of potential interference effects that expands upon arguments asserting the necessity of arousal for successful fear exposure. Specifically, recent advances in the study of the effects of cortisol on memory--suggesting that glucocorticoids are crucial to the learning of emotional material--have led us to posit that the attenuation of glucocorticoid activity by anxiolytic medications may interfere with extinction learning in exposure-based therapies. Implications for the efficacy of combination treatments for the anxiety disorders are discussed.
Combination Therapy; Anxiety Disorders; Extinction; Glucocorticoids; Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy; NMDA