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1.  Evolution in Fast Forward: a Potential Role for Mutators in Accelerating Staphylococcus aureus Pathoadaptation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(3):615-628.
Pathogen evolution and subsequent phenotypic heterogeneity during chronic infection are proposed to enhance Staphylococcus aureus survival during human infection. We tested this theory by genetically and phenotypically characterizing strains with mutations constructed in the mismatch repair (MMR) and oxidized guanine (GO) system, termed mutators, which exhibit increased spontaneous-mutation frequencies. Analysis of these mutators revealed not only strain-dependent increases in the spontaneous-mutation frequency but also shifts in mutational type and hot spots consistent with loss of GO or MMR functions. Although the GO and MMR systems are relied upon in some bacterial species to prevent reactive oxygen species-induced DNA damage, no deficit in hydrogen peroxide sensitivity was found when either of these DNA repair pathways was lost in S. aureus. To gain insight into the contribution of increased mutation supply to S. aureus pathoadaptation, we measured the rate of α-hemolysin and staphyloxanthin inactivation during serial passage. Detection of increased rates of α-hemolysin and staphyloxanthin inactivation in GO and MMR mutants suggests that these strains are capable of modifying virulence phenotypes implicated in mediating infection. Accelerated derivation of altered virulence phenotypes, combined with the absence of increased ROS sensitivity, highlights the potential of mutators to drive pathoadaptation in the host and serve as catalysts for persistent infections.
PMCID: PMC3554003  PMID: 23204459
2.  Development of Pooled Suppression Subtractive Hybridization to analyze the Pangenome of Staphylococcus aureus 
We describe the development and application of a pooled Suppression Subtractive Hybridization (PSSH) method to describe differences between the genomic content of a pool of clinical Staphylococcus aureus isolates and a sequenced reference strain. In comparative bacterial genomics, Suppression Subtractive Hybridization (SSH) is normally utilized to compare genomic features or expression profiles of one strain versus another, which limits its ability to analyze communities of isolates. However, a PSSH approach theoretically enables the user to characterize the entirety of gene content unique to a related group of isolates in a single reaction. These unique fragments may then be linked to individual isolates through standard PCR. This method was applied to examine the genomic diversity found in pools of Staphylococcus aureus isolates associated with complicated bacteremia infections leading to endocarditis and osteomyelitis. Across four pools of 10 isolates each, four hundred and twenty nine fragments not found in or significantly divergent from the S. aureus NCTC 8325 reference genome were detected. These fragments could be linked to individual strains within its pool by PCR. This is the first use of PSSH to examine the S. aureus pangenome. We propose that PSSH is a powerful tool for researchers interested in rapidly comparing the genomic content of multiple unstudied isolates.
PMCID: PMC2843094  PMID: 20138093
Staphylococcus aureus; pangenome; subtractive hybridization

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