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1.  Characterization of Alpha-Toxin hla Gene Variants, Alpha-Toxin Expression Levels, and Levels of Antibody to Alpha-Toxin in Hemodialysis and Postsurgical Patients with Staphylococcus aureus Bacteremia 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;53(1):227-236.
Alpha-toxin is a major Staphylococcus aureus virulence factor. This study evaluated potential relationships between in vitro alpha-toxin expression of S. aureus bloodstream isolates, anti-alpha-toxin antibody in serum of patients with S. aureus bacteremia (SAB), and clinical outcomes in 100 hemodialysis and 100 postsurgical SAB patients. Isolates underwent spa typing and hla sequencing. Serum anti-alpha-toxin IgG and neutralizing antibody levels were measured by using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and a red blood cell (RBC)-based hemolysis neutralization assay. Neutralization of alpha-toxin by an anti-alpha-toxin monoclonal antibody (MAb MEDI4893) was tested in an RBC-based lysis assay. Most isolates encoded hla (197/200; 98.5%) and expressed alpha-toxin (173/200; 86.5%). In vitro alpha-toxin levels were inversely associated with survival (cure, 2.19 μg/ml, versus failure, 1.09 μg/ml; P < 0.01). Both neutralizing (hemodialysis, 1.26 IU/ml, versus postsurgical, 0.95; P < 0.05) and IgG (hemodialysis, 1.94 IU/ml, versus postsurgical, 1.27; P < 0.05) antibody levels were higher in the hemodialysis population. Antibody levels were also significantly higher in patients infected with alpha-toxin-expressing S. aureus isolates (P < 0.05). Levels of both neutralizing antibodies and IgG were similar among patients who were cured and those not cured (failures). Sequence analysis of hla revealed 12 distinct hla genotypes, and all genotypic variants were susceptible to a neutralizing monoclonal antibody in clinical development (MEDI4893). These data demonstrate that alpha-toxin is highly conserved in clinical S. aureus isolates. Higher in vitro alpha-toxin levels were associated with a positive clinical outcome. Although patients infected with alpha-toxin-producing S. aureus exhibited higher anti-alpha-toxin antibody levels, these levels were not associated with a better clinical outcome in this study.
PMCID: PMC4290928  PMID: 25392350
2.  Potential Influence of Staphylococcus aureus Clonal Complex 30 Genotype and Transcriptome on Hematogenous Infections 
Open Forum Infectious Diseases  2015;2(3):ofv093.
Staphylococcus aureus CC30 is distinguished by its ability initiate complicated infections. This ability is due to acquisition of unique genes, SNPs and metabolic changes that attenuate virulence until the conditions become favorable for bacteremia and subsequent hematogenous seeding.
Background. The contemporary Staphylococcus aureus clonal complex (CC) 30 lineage is associated with complicated infections, including endocarditis and osteomyelitis. This lineage diverged from the phage-type 80/81 S aureus clone responsible for a major bacterial epidemic of the 20th century. The genome and transcriptome features that contribute to complicated infections of the CC30 lineage are unknown.
Methods. Twenty-nine clinical methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA) strains (8 from CC30 and 21 from other major CCs were evaluated for virulence using murine and Galleria mellonella sepsis models. Genomic features of CC30 were identified by comparative genome sequencing and RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis of the 29 strains and 31 previously sequenced S aureus genomes.
Results. The CC30 isolates displayed lower virulence in the sepsis models compared with other CCs [P < .0001]. Comparisons of orthologous proteins and transcriptome analysis identified genes (eg, nitric oxide reductase) and changes in metabolic pathways (eg, pyrimidine metabolism) that contribute to the distinct CC30 phenotype. Previously reported nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were found in accessory gene regulator C (agrC) and α-hemolysin (hla), molecules important for virulence. Additional nonsynonymous SNPs conserved across clinical CC30 isolates when compared with the first sequenced contemporary CC30 clone, MRSA-16, were identified in multiple genes, suggesting continuing evolutionary divergence in this lineage.
Conclusions. Genomic and transcriptional analyses suggest that the CC30 lineage has acquired metabolic features that contribute to persistent and complicated infections. Absence of sepsis-induced mortality in animal models may be due in part to its unique genomic profile and suggests that specific genotypes of S aureus elicit distinct types of infection types.
PMCID: PMC4512144  PMID: 26213692
genome; genotype; hematogenous infections; Staphylococcus aureus; transcriptome
3.  Virulence of Endemic Nonpigmented Northern Australian Staphylococcus aureus Clone (Clonal Complex 75, S. argenteus) Is Not Augmented by Staphyloxanthin 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(3):520-527.
Staphylococcus aureus clonal complex 75 (herein referred to as S. argenteus) lacks the carotenoid pigment operon, crtOPQMN, responsible for production of the putative virulence factor, staphyloxanthin. Although a common cause of community-onset skin infections among Indigenous populations in northern Australia, this clone is infrequently isolated from hospital-based patients with either bacteremic or nonbacteremic infections. We hypothesized that S. argenteus would have attenuated virulence compared to other S. aureus strains due to its staphyloxanthin “deficiency.” Compared to prototypical S. aureus strains, S. argenteus was more susceptible to oxidative stress and neutrophil killing in vitro and had reduced virulence in murine sepsis and skin infection models. Transformation with pTX-crtOPQMN resulted in staphyloxanthin expression and increased resistance to oxidative stress in vitro. However, neither resistance to neutrophil killing nor in vivo virulence was increased. Thus, reduced virulence of S. argenteus in these models is due to mechanisms unrelated to lack of staphyloxanthin production.
PMCID: PMC3699000  PMID: 23599317
Staphylococcus aureus; staphyloxanthin; virulence; Australia; carotenoid pigment
4.  Dusp3 and Psme3 Are Associated with Murine Susceptibility to Staphylococcus aureus Infection and Human Sepsis 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(6):e1004149.
Using A/J mice, which are susceptible to Staphylococcus aureus, we sought to identify genetic determinants of susceptibility to S. aureus, and evaluate their function with regard to S. aureus infection. One QTL region on chromosome 11 containing 422 genes was found to be significantly associated with susceptibility to S. aureus infection. Of these 422 genes, whole genome transcription profiling identified five genes (Dcaf7, Dusp3, Fam134c, Psme3, and Slc4a1) that were significantly differentially expressed in a) S. aureus –infected susceptible (A/J) vs. resistant (C57BL/6J) mice and b) humans with S. aureus blood stream infection vs. healthy subjects. Three of these genes (Dcaf7, Dusp3, and Psme3) were down-regulated in susceptible vs. resistant mice at both pre- and post-infection time points by qPCR. siRNA-mediated knockdown of Dusp3 and Psme3 induced significant increases of cytokine production in S. aureus-challenged RAW264.7 macrophages and bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs) through enhancing NF-κB signaling activity. Similar increases in cytokine production and NF-κB activity were also seen in BMDMs from CSS11 (C57BL/6J background with chromosome 11 from A/J), but not C57BL/6J. These findings suggest that Dusp3 and Psme3 contribute to S. aureus infection susceptibility in A/J mice and play a role in human S. aureus infection.
Author Summary
Staphylococcus aureus causes life-threatening infections in humans. Host genetic determinants influence the outcome of S. aureus infection, yet are poorly understood. Susceptible A/J and resistant C57BL/6J mice provide a unique platform to study the genetic difference responsible for variable host response to S. aureus infection. We showed that chromosome 11 in A/J was responsible for susceptibility to S. aureus. We further identified a QTL locus on Chromosome 11 significantly associated with S. aureus susceptibility. Five genes in the QTL (Dcaf7, Dusp3, Fam134c, Psme3, and Slc4a1) were significantly differently expressed in a) susceptible vs. resistant mice, and b) humans with S. aureus blood stream infection vs. healthy human subjects. Three genes (Dusp3, Psme3, and Dcaf7) were down-regulated in susceptible A/J mice. siRNA-mediated knockdown of Dusp3 and Psme3 in bone marrow derived macrophage (BMDMs) significantly enhanced cytokine responses through NF-κB activity upon S. aureus challenge in a pattern that was also present in S. aureus-challenged BMDMs from susceptible CSS11 (chr. 11 from A/J but otherwise C57BL/6J) mice, but not resistant C57BL/6J mice. These findings suggest that Dusp3 and Psme3 contribute to S. aureus infection susceptibility in A/J mice and play a role in human S. aureus infection.
PMCID: PMC4047107  PMID: 24901344
5.  A genome-wide association study of variants associated with acquisition of Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia in a healthcare setting 
Humans vary in their susceptibility to acquiring Staphylococcus aureus infection, and research suggests that there is a genetic basis for this variability. Several recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified variants that may affect susceptibility to infectious diseases, demonstrating the potential value of GWAS in this arena.
We conducted a GWAS to identify common variants associated with acquisition of S. aureus bacteremia (SAB) resulting from healthcare contact. We performed a logistic regression analysis to compare patients with healthcare contact who developed SAB (361 cases) to patients with healthcare contact in the same hospital who did not develop SAB (699 controls), testing 542,410 SNPs and adjusting for age (by decade), sex, and 6 significant principal components from our EIGENSTRAT analysis. Additionally, we evaluated the joint effect of the host and pathogen genomes in association with severity of SAB infection via logistic regression, including an interaction of host SNP with bacterial genotype, and adjusting for age (by decade), sex, the 6 significant principal components, and dialysis status. Bonferroni corrections were applied in both analyses to control for multiple comparisons.
Ours is the first study that has attempted to evaluate the entire human genome for variants potentially involved in the acquisition or severity of SAB. Although this study identified no common variant of large effect size to have genome-wide significance for association with either the risk of acquiring SAB or severity of SAB, the variant (rs2043436) most significantly associated with severity of infection is located in a biologically plausible candidate gene (CDON, a member of the immunoglobulin family) and may warrant further study.
The genetic architecture underlying SAB is likely to be complex. Future investigations using larger samples, narrowed phenotypes, and advances in both genotyping and analytical methodologies will be important tools for identifying causative variants for this common and serious cause of healthcare-associated infection.
PMCID: PMC3928605  PMID: 24524581
Genomics; Genome-wide association study; Case–control study; Staphylococcus aureus; Bacteremia; Gram-positive bacterial infections; Polymorphism, single-nucleotide; Infections; Nosocomial; Cross infection
6.  Host Gene Expression Profiling and In Vivo Cytokine Studies to Characterize the Role of Linezolid and Vancomycin in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Murine Sepsis Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60463.
Linezolid (L), a potent antibiotic for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), inhibits bacterial protein synthesis. By contrast, vancomycin (V) is a cell wall active agent. Here, we used a murine sepsis model to test the hypothesis that L treatment is associated with differences in bacterial and host characteristics as compared to V. Mice were injected with S. aureus USA300, and then intravenously treated with 25 mg/kg of either L or V at 2 hours post infection (hpi). In vivo alpha-hemolysin production was reduced in both L and V-treated mice compared to untreated mice but the reduction did not reach the statistical significance [P = 0.12 for L; P = 0.70 for V). PVL was significantly reduced in L-treated mice compared to untreated mice (P = 0.02). However the reduction of in vivo PVL did not reach the statistical significance in V- treated mice compared to untreated mice (P = 0.27). Both antibiotics significantly reduced IL-1β production [P = 0.001 for L; P = 0.006 for V]. IL-6 was significantly reduced with L but not V antibiotic treatment [P<0.001 for L; P = 0.11 for V]. Neither treatment significantly reduced production of TNF-α. Whole-blood gene expression profiling showed no significant effect of L and V on uninfected mice. In S. aureus-infected mice, L altered the expression of a greater number of genes than V (95 vs. 42; P = 0.001). Pathway analysis for the differentially expressed genes identified toll-like receptor signaling pathway to be common to each S. aureus-infected comparison. Expression of immunomodulatory genes like Cxcl9, Cxcl10, Il1r2, Cd14 and Nfkbia was different among the treatment groups. Glycerolipid metabolism pathway was uniquely associated with L treatment in S. aureus infection. This study demonstrates that, as compared to V, treatment with L is associated with reduced levels of toxin production, differences in host inflammatory response, and distinct host gene expression characteristics in MRSA sepsis.
PMCID: PMC3614971  PMID: 23565251
7.  Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Endocarditis Isolates Are Associated With Clonal Complex 30 Genotype and a Distinct Repertoire of Enterotoxins and Adhesins 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;204(5):704-713.
Background. Using multinational collections of methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) isolates from infective endocarditis (IE) and soft tissue infections (STIs), we sought to (1) validate the finding that S. aureus in clonal complex (CC) 30 is associated with hematogenous complications and (2) test the hypothesis that specific genetic characteristics in S. aureus are associated with infection severity.
Methods. IE and STI isolates from 2 cohorts were frequency matched by geographic origin. Isolates underwent spa typing to infer CC and multiplex polymerase chain reaction for presence of virulence genes.
Results. 114 isolate pairs were genotyped. IE isolates were more likely to be CC30 (19.5% vs 6.2%; P = .005) and to contain 3 adhesins (clfB, cna, map/eap; P < .0001 for all) and 5 enterotoxins (tst, sea, sed, see, and sei; P ≤ .005 for all). CC30 isolates were more likely to contain cna, tst, sea, see, seg, and chp (P < .05 for all).
Conclusions. MSSA IE isolates were significantly more likely to be CC30 and to possess a distinct repertoire of virulence genes than MSSA STI isolates from the same region. The genetic basis of this association requires further study.
PMCID: PMC3156104  PMID: 21844296
8.  Presence of Genes Encoding Panton-Valentine Leukocidin Is Not the Primary Determinant of Outcome in Patients with Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia Due to Staphylococcus aureus 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(3):848-856.
The impact of Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) on the outcome in Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia is controversial. We genotyped S. aureus isolates from patients with hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) enrolled in two registrational multinational clinical trials for the genetic elements carrying pvl and 30 other virulence genes. A total of 287 isolates (173 methicillin-resistant S. aureus [MRSA] and 114 methicillin-susceptible S. aureus [MSSA] isolates) from patients from 127 centers in 34 countries for whom clinical outcomes of cure or failure were available underwent genotyping. Of these, pvl was detected by PCR and its product confirmed in 23 isolates (8.0%) (MRSA, 18/173 isolates [10.4%]; MSSA, 5/114 isolates [4.4%]). The presence of pvl was not associated with a higher risk for clinical failure (4/23 [17.4%] versus 48/264 [18.2%]; P = 1.00) or mortality. These findings persisted after adjustment for multiple potential confounding variables. No significant associations between clinical outcome and (i) presence of any of the 30 other virulence genes tested, (ii) presence of specific bacterial clone, (iii) levels of alpha-hemolysin, or (iv) delta-hemolysin production were identified. This study suggests that neither pvl presence nor in vitro level of alpha-hemolysin production is the primary determinant of outcome among patients with HAP caused by S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC3295120  PMID: 22205797
9.  Panton-Valentine Leukocidin Is Not the Primary Determinant of Outcome for Staphylococcus aureus Skin Infections: Evaluation from the CANVAS Studies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37212.
The impact of Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) on the severity of complicated skin and skin structure infections (cSSSI) caused by Staphylococcus aureus is controversial. We evaluated potential associations between clinical outcome and PVL presence in both methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) isolates from patients enrolled in two large, multinational phase three clinical trials assessing ceftaroline fosamil for the treatment of cSSSI (the CANVAS 1 and 2 programs). Isolates from all microbiologically evaluable patients with monomicrobial MRSA or MSSA infections (n = 473) were genotyped by PCR for pvl and underwent pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Genes encoding pvl were present in 266/473 (56.2%) isolates. Infections caused by pvl-positive S. aureus were associated with younger patient age, North American acquisition, and presence of major abscesses (P<0.001 for each). Cure rates of patients infected with pvl-positive and pvl-negative S. aureus were similar overall (93.6% versus 92.8%; P = 0.72), and within MRSA-infected (94.5% vs. 93.1%; P = 0.67) and MSSA-infected patients (92.2% vs. 92.7%; P = 1.00). This finding persisted after adjustment for multiple patient characteristics. Outcomes were also similar when USA300 PVL+ and non-USA300 PVL+ infections were compared. The results of this contemporary, international study suggest that pvl presence was not the primary determinant of outcome in patients with cSSSI due to either MRSA or MSSA.
PMCID: PMC3356380  PMID: 22623995
10.  Two Genes on A/J Chromosome 18 Are Associated with Susceptibility to Staphylococcus aureus Infection by Combined Microarray and QTL Analyses 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(9):e1001088.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC2932726  PMID: 20824097
11.  The Staphylococcus aureus LytSR Two-Component Regulatory System Affects Biofilm Formation▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(15):4767-4775.
Studies of the Staphylococcus aureus LytSR two-component regulatory system have led to the identification of the cid and lrg operons, which affect murein hydrolase activity, stationary-phase survival, antibiotic tolerance, and biofilm formation. The cid gene products enhance murein hydrolase activity and antibiotic tolerance whereas the lrg gene products inhibit these processes in a manner believed to be analogous to bacteriophage-encoded holins and antiholins, respectively. Importantly, these operons have been shown to play significant roles in biofilm development by controlling the release of genomic DNA, which then becomes an important structural component of the biofilm matrix. To determine the role of LytSR in biofilm development, a lytS knockout mutant was generated from a clinical S. aureus isolate (UAMS-1) and the effects on gene expression and biofilm formation were examined. As observed in laboratory isolates, LytSR was found to be required for lrgAB expression. Furthermore, the lytS mutant formed a more adherent biofilm than the wild-type and complemented strains. Consistent with previous findings, the increased adherence of the mutant was attributed to the increased prevalence of matrix-associated eDNA. Transcription profiling studies indicated that the lrgAB operon is the primary target of LytSR-mediated regulation but that this regulatory system also impacts expression of a wide variety of genes involved in basic metabolism. Overall, the results of these studies demonstrate that the LytSR two-component regulatory system plays an important role in S. aureus biofilm development, likely as a result of its direct influence on lrgAB expression.
PMCID: PMC2715716  PMID: 19502411

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