Although it has recently been shown that A/J mice are highly susceptible to Staphylococcus aureus sepsis as compared to C57BL/6J, the specific genes responsible for this differential phenotype are unknown. Using chromosome substitution strains (CSS), we found that loci on chromosomes 8, 11, and 18 influence susceptibility to S. aureus sepsis in A/J mice. We then used two candidate gene selection strategies to identify genes on these three chromosomes associated with S. aureus susceptibility, and targeted genes identified by both gene selection strategies. First, we used whole genome transcription profiling to identify 191 (56 on chr. 8, 100 on chr. 11, and 35 on chr. 18) genes on our three chromosomes of interest that are differentially expressed between S. aureus-infected A/J and C57BL/6J. Second, we identified two significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) for survival post-infection on chr. 18 using N2 backcross mice (F1 [C18A]×C57BL/6J). Ten genes on chr. 18 (March3, Cep120, Chmp1b, Dcp2, Dtwd2, Isoc1, Lman1, Spire1, Tnfaip8, and Seh1l) mapped to the two significant QTL regions and were also identified by the expression array selection strategy. Using real-time PCR, 6 of these 10 genes (Chmp1b, Dtwd2, Isoc1, Lman1, Tnfaip8, and Seh1l) showed significantly different expression levels between S. aureus-infected A/J and C57BL/6J. For two (Tnfaip8 and Seh1l) of these 6 genes, siRNA-mediated knockdown of gene expression in S. aureus–challenged RAW264.7 macrophages induced significant changes in the cytokine response (IL-1 β and GM-CSF) compared to negative controls. These cytokine response changes were consistent with those seen in S. aureus-challenged peritoneal macrophages from CSS 18 mice (which contain A/J chromosome 18 but are otherwise C57BL/6J), but not C57BL/6J mice. These findings suggest that two genes, Tnfaip8 and Seh1l, may contribute to susceptibility to S. aureus in A/J mice, and represent promising candidates for human genetic susceptibility studies.
Staphylococcus aureus has a wide spectrum of human infection, ranging from asymptomatic nasal carriage to overwhelming sepsis and death. Mouse models offer an attractive strategy for investigating complex diseases such as S. aureus infections. A/J mice are highly susceptible to S. aureus infection compared with C57BL/6J mice. We showed that genes on chromosomes 8, 11, and 18 in A/J are responsible for susceptibility to S. aureus by using chromosome substitution strains (CSS). From the ∼4200 genes on these three chromosomes, we identified 191 which were differentially expressed between A/J and C57BL/6J when challenged with S. aureus. Next, we identified two significant QTLs on chromosome 18 that are associated with susceptibility to S. aureus infection in N2 backcross mice. Ten genes (March3, Cep120, Chmp1b, Dcp2, Dtwd2, Isoc1, Lman1, Spire1, Tnfaip8, and Seh1l) mapped to the two significant QTLs and were differentially expressed between A/J and C57BL/6J. One gene on each QTL, Tnfaip8 and Seh1l, affected expression of cytokines in mouse macrophages exposed to S. aureus. These cytokine response patterns were consistent with those seen in S. aureus-challenged peritoneal macrophages from CSS 18, but not C57BL/6J. Tnfaip8 and Seh1l are strong candidates for genes influencing susceptibility to S. aureus of A/J mice.