Many host defense cationic antimicrobial peptides (HDPs) perturb the staphylococcal cell membrane (CM) and alter transmembrane potential (ΔΨ) as key parts of their lethal mechanism. Thus, a sense-response system for detecting and mediating adaptive responses to such stresses could impact organism survival; the Staphylococcus aureus LytSR two-component regulatory system (TCRS) may serve as such a ΔΨ sensor. One well-known target of this system is the lrgAB operon, which, along with the related cidABC operon, has been shown to be a regulator in the control of programmed cell death and lysis. We used an isogenic set of S. aureus strains: (i) UAMS-1, (ii) its isogenic ΔlytS and ΔlrgAB mutants, and (iii) plasmid-complemented ΔlytSR and ΔlrgAB mutants. The ΔlytS strain displayed significantly increased in vitro susceptibilities to all HDPs tested (neutrophil-derived human neutrophil peptide 1 [hNP-1], platelet-derived thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal proteins [tPMPs], and the tPMP-mimetic peptide RP-1), as well as to calcium-daptomycin (DAP), a cationic antimicrobial peptide (CAP). In contrast, the ΔlrgAB strain exhibited no significant changes in susceptibilities to these cationic peptides, indicating that although lytSR positively regulates transcription of lrgAB, increased HDP/CAP susceptibilities in the ΔlytS mutant were lrgAB independent. Further, parental UAMS-1 (but not the ΔlytS mutant) became more resistant to hNP-1 and DAP following pretreatment with carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) (a CM-depolarizing agent). Of note, lytSR-dependent survival against CAP/HDP killing was not associated with changes in either surface positive charge, expression of mprF and dlt, or CM fluidity. The ΔlytS strain (but not the ΔlrgAB mutant) displayed a significant reduction in target tissue survival in an endocarditis model during DAP treatment. Collectively, these results suggest that the lytSR TCRS plays an important role in adaptive responses of S. aureus to CM-perturbing HDPs/CAPs, likely by functioning as a sense-response system for detecting subtle changes in ΔΨ.
Angioinvasion is a hallmark of mucormycosis. Previously, we identified endothelial cell glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78) as a receptor for Mucorales that mediates host cell invasion. Here we determined that spore coat protein homologs (CotH) of Mucorales act as fungal ligands for GRP78. CotH proteins were widely present in Mucorales and absent from noninvasive pathogens. Heterologous expression of CotH3 and CotH2 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae conferred the ability to invade host cells via binding to GRP78. Homology modeling and computational docking studies indicated structurally compatible interactions between GRP78 and both CotH3 and CotH2. A mutant of Rhizopus oryzae, the most common cause of mucormycosis, with reduced CotH expression was impaired for invading and damaging endothelial cells and CHO cells overexpressing GRP78. This strain also exhibited reduced virulence in a diabetic ketoacidotic (DKA) mouse model of mucormycosis. Treatment with anti-CotH Abs abolished the ability of R. oryzae to invade host cells and protected DKA mice from mucormycosis. The presence of CotH in Mucorales explained the specific susceptibility of DKA patients, who have increased GRP78 levels, to mucormycosis. Together, these data indicate that CotH3 and CotH2 function as invasins that interact with host cell GRP78 to mediate pathogenic host-cell interactions and identify CotH as a promising therapeutic target for mucormycosis.
The investigational vaccine, NDV-3, contains the N-terminal portion of the Candida albicans agglutinin-like sequence 3 protein (Als3p) formulated with an aluminum hydroxide adjuvant in phosphate-buffered saline. Preclinical studies demonstrated that the Als3p vaccine antigen protects mice from oropharyngeal, vaginal and intravenous challenge with C. albicans and other selected species of Candida as well as both intravenous challenge and skin and soft tissue infection with Staphylococcus aureus. The objectives of this first-in-human Phase I clinical trial were to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of NDV-3 at two different antigen levels compared to a saline placebo. Forty healthy, adult subjects were randomized to receive one dose of NDV-3 containing either 30 or 300 μg of Als3p, or placebo. NDV-3 at both dose levels was safe and generally well-tolerated. Anti-Als3p total IgG and IgA1 levels for both doses reached peak levels by day 14 post vaccination, with 100% seroconversion of all vaccinated subjects. On average, NDV-3 stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) production of both IFN-γ and IL-17A, which peaked at day 7 for subjects receiving the 300 μg dose and at day 28 for those receiving the 30 μg dose. Six months after receiving the first dose of NDV-3, nineteen subjects received a second dose of NDV-3 identical to their first dose to evaluate memory B- and T-cell immune responses. The second dose resulted in a significant boost of IgG and IgA1 titers in >70% of subjects, with the biggest impact in those receiving the 30 μg dose. A memory T-cell response was also noted for IFN-γ in almost all subjects and for IL-17A in the majority of subjects. These data support the continued investigation of NDV-3 as a vaccine candidate against Candida and S. aureus infections.
vaccine; phase 1; first-in-human; Als3p; Candida; Staphylococcus aureus
Background. We hypothesized that, for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in vitro daptomycin susceptibility could be influenced by exposures to endogenous host defense peptides (HDPs) prior to clinical exposure to daptomycin.
Methods. Two endovascular HDPs were used: thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal protein (tPMP) and human neutrophil defensin-1 (hNP-1) from neutrophils. Forty-seven unique MRSA isolates obtained from bacteremic patients in multicenter prospective clinical trials were studied. Clinical characteristics, microbiologic parameters, prior vancomycin therapy, and susceptibilities to tPMP, hNP-1, and daptomycin were compared using univariate and multivariate analyses.
Results. All strains were daptomycin susceptible. Daptomycin minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were inversely related to in vitro tPMP (but not hNP-1) killing. Strains with a daptomycin MIC of 1 mg/L exhibited significantly less killing by tPMP, compared with strains with an MIC of ≤ 0.5 mg/L. Prior vancomycin therapy did not influence this relationship. Regression tree modeling confirmed that reduced tPMP-induced killing in vitro was the strongest predictor of higher daptomycin MICs within the daptomycin-susceptible range.
Conclusions. Among daptomycin-susceptible MRSA isolates from patients who had never received daptomycin, higher daptomycin MICs tracked with increased resistance to killing by platelet-derived but not neutrophil-derived HDPs. These findings support the notion that endogenous exposure of MRSA to specific HDPs may play a role in selecting strains with an intrinsically higher daptomycin MIC phenotype.
Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of endovascular infections, including catheter sepsis and infective endocarditis (IE). Vancomycin (VAN) is the primary choice for treatment of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections. However, high rates of VAN treatment failure in MRSA infections caused by VAN-susceptible strains have been increasingly reported. Biofilm-associated MRSA infections are especially prone to clinical antibiotic failure. The present studies examined potential relationships between MRSA susceptibility to VAN in biofilms in vitro and nonsusceptibility to VAN in endovascular infection in vivo. Using 10 “VAN-susceptible” MRSA bloodstream isolates previously investigated for VAN responsiveness in experimental IE, we studied the mechanism(s) of such in vivo VAN resistance, including: (i) VAN binding to MRSA organisms; (ii) the impact of VAN on biofilm formation and biofilm composition; (iii) VAN efficacy in an in vitro catheter-related biofilm model; (iv) effects on cell wall thickness. As a group, the five strains previously categorized as VAN nonresponders (non-Rsp) in the experimental IE model differed from the five responders (Rsp) in terms of lower VAN binding, increased biofilm formation, higher survival in the presence of VAN within biofilms in the presence or absence of catheters, and greater biofilm reduction upon proteinase K treatment. Interestingly, sub-MICs of VAN significantly promoted biofilm formation only in the non-Rsp isolates. Cell wall thickness was similar among all MRSA strains. These results suggest that sublethal VAN levels that induce biofilm formation and reduce efficacy of VAN in the in vitro catheter-associated biofilms may contribute to suboptimal treatment outcomes for endovascular infections caused by “VAN-susceptible” MRSA strains.
In order to colonize the host and cause disease, Candida albicans must avoid being killed by host defense peptides. Previously, we determined that the regulatory protein Ssd1 governs antimicrobial peptide resistance in C. albicans. Here, we sought to identify additional genes whose products govern susceptibility to antimicrobial peptides. We discovered that a bcr1Δ/Δ mutant, like the ssd1Δ/Δ mutant, had increased susceptibility to the antimicrobial peptides, protamine, RP-1, and human β defensin-2. Homozygous deletion of BCR1 in the ssd1Δ/Δ mutant did not result in a further increase in antimicrobial peptide susceptibility. Exposure of the bcr1Δ/Δ and ssd1Δ/Δ mutants to RP-1 induced greater loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and increased plasma membrane permeability than with the control strains. Therefore, Bcr1 and Ssd1 govern antimicrobial peptide susceptibility and likely function in the same pathway. Furthermore, BCR1 mRNA expression was downregulated in the ssd1Δ/Δ mutant, and the forced expression of BCR1 in the ssd1Δ/Δ mutant partially restored antimicrobial peptide resistance. These results suggest that Bcr1 functions downstream of Ssd1. Interestingly, overexpression of 11 known Bcr1 target genes in the bcr1Δ/Δ mutant failed to restore antimicrobial peptide resistance, suggesting that other Bcr1 target genes are likely responsible for antimicrobial peptide resistance. Collectively, these results demonstrate that Bcr1 functions downstream of Ssd1 to govern antimicrobial peptide resistance by maintaining mitochondrial energetics and reducing membrane permeabilization.
The development of daptomycin resistance in Staphylococcus aureus is associated with clinical treatment failures. The mechanism(s) of such resistance have not been clearly defined.
We studied an isogenic daptomycin-susceptible (DAPS) and daptomycin-resistant (DAPR) S. aureus strain pair (616; 701) from a patient with relapsing endocarditis during daptomycin treatment, using comparative transcriptomic and proteomic techniques.
Minor differences in the genome content were found between strains by DNA hybridization. Transcriptomic analyses identified a number of genes differentially expressed in important functional categories: cell division; metabolism of bacterial envelopes; and global regulation. Of note, the DAPR isolate exhibited reduced expression of the major cell wall autolysis gene coincident with the up-regulation of genes involved in cell wall teichoic acid production. Using quantitative (q)RT–PCR on the gene cadre putatively involved in cationic peptide resistance, we formulated a putative regulatory network compatible with microarray data sets, mainly implicating bacterial envelopes. Of interest, qRT–PCR of this same gene cadre from two distinct isogenic DAPS/DAPR clinical strain pairs revealed evidence of other strain–dependent networks operative in the DAPR phenotype. Comparative proteomics of 616 versus 701 revealed a differential abundance of proteins in various functional categories, including cell wall-associated targets and biofilm formation proteins. Phenotypically, strains 616 and 701 showed major differences in their ability to develop bacterial biofilms in the presence of the antibacterial lipid, oleic acid.
Compatible with previous in vitro observations, in vivo-acquired DAPR in S. aureus is a complex, multistep phenomenon involving: (i) strain-dependent phenotypes; (ii) transcriptome adaptation; and (iii) modification of the lipid and protein contents of cellular envelopes.
cell wall metabolism; antibiotic resistance; biofilms; δ-haemolysis; oleic acid; microarrays; virulence; quantitative proteomics
We studied an ampicillin- and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) isolate from a patient with endocarditis and bacteremia refractory to treatment with daptomycin (6 mg/kg of body weight) plus linezolid. Blood cultures cleared within 24 h of changing therapy to daptomycin (12 mg/kg) plus ampicillin. We examined the effects of ampicillin on daptomycin-induced growth inhibition and killing, surface charge, and susceptibility to several prototypical host defense cationic antimicrobial peptides. MICs and time-kill curves with daptomycin were assessed in the presence and absence of ampicillin. The impact of ampicillin on surface charge was assessed by flow cytometry and a poly-l-lysine binding assay. The effects of ampicillin preexposures upon VRE killing by five distinct cationic peptides of different structure, charge, origin, and mechanism of action were analyzed using the epidermal cathelicidin LL-37, thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal proteins (tPMPs), and a synthetic congener modeled after tPMP microbicidal domains (RP-1), human neutrophil peptide-1 (hNP-1), and polymyxin B (bacteria derived). Fluoroscein-Bodipy-labeled daptomycin was used to evaluate daptomycin binding to VRE membranes in the presence or absence of ampicillin. In media containing ampicillin (25 to 100 mg/liter), daptomycin MICs decreased from 1.0 to 0.38 mg/liter. Based on time-kill analysis and an in vitro pharmacodynamic model, ampicillin enhanced daptomycin activity against the study VRE from a bacteriostatic to a bactericidal profile. VRE grown in ampicillin (25 to 150 mg/liter) demonstrated an incremental reduction in its relative net positive surface charge. When grown in the presence (versus absence) of ampicillin (25 and 100 mg/liter), the VRE strain (i) was more susceptible to killing by LL-37, tPMPs, hNP-1, and RP-1 but not to polymyxin B and (ii) exhibited greater binding to Bodipy-labeled daptomycin. We conclude that ampicillin induces reductions in net positive bacterial surface charge of VRE, correlating with enhanced bactericidal effects of cationic calcium-daptomycin and a diverse range of other cationic peptides in vitro. While the mechanism(s) of such β-lactam-mediated shifts in surface charge remains to be defined, these finding suggest a potential for β-lactam-mediated enhancement of activity of both daptomycin and innate host defense peptides against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Host defense peptides are naturally occurring molecules that play essential roles in innate immunity to infection. Based on prior structure-function knowledge, we tested two synthetic peptides (RP-1 and AA-RP-1) modeled on the conserved, microbicidal α-helical domain of mammalian CXCL4 platelet kinocidins. These peptides were evaluated for efficacy against Leishmania species, the causative agents of the group of diseases known as leishmaniasis. In vitro antileishmanial activity was assessed against three distinct Leishmania strains by measuring proliferation, metabolic activity and parasite viability after exposure to various concentrations of peptides. We demonstrate that micromolar concentrations of RP-1 and AA-RP-1 caused dose-dependent growth inhibition of Leishmania promastigotes. This antileishmanial activity correlated with rapid membrane disruption, as well as with a loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential. In addition, RP-1 and AA-RP-1 demonstrated distinct and significant in vivo antileishmanial activities in a mouse model of experimental visceral leishmaniasis after intravenous administration. These results establish efficacy of RP-1 lineage synthetic peptides against Leishmania species in vitro and after intravenous administration in vivo and provide further validation of proof of concept for the development of these and related systemic anti-infective peptides targeting pathogens that are resistant to conventional antibiotics.
The two-component regulatory system, GraRS, appears to be involved in staphylococcal responses to cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs). However, the mechanism(s) by which GraRS is induced, regulated, and modulated remain undefined. In this study, we used two well-characterized MRSA strains (Mu50 and COL) and their respective mutants of graR and vraG (encoding the ABC transporter-dependent efflux pump immediately downstream of graRS), and show that (i) the expression of two key determinants of net positive surface charge (mprF and dlt) is dependent on the cotranscription of both graR and vraG, (ii) reduced expression of mprF and dlt in graR mutants was phenotypically associated with reduced surface-positive charge, (iii) this net reduction in surface-positive charge in graR and vraG mutants, in turn, correlated with enhanced killing by a range of CAPs of diverse structure and origin, including those from mammalian platelets (tPMPs) and neutrophils (hNP-1) and from bacteria (polymyxin B), and (iv) the synthesis and translocation of membrane lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (an mprF-dependent function) was substantially lower in graR and vraG mutants than in parental strains. Importantly, the inducibility of mprF and dlt transcription via the graRS-vraFG pathway was selective, with induction by sublethal exposure to the CAPs, RP-1 (platelets), and polymyxin B, but not by other cationic molecules (hNP-1, vancomycin, gentamicin, or calcium-daptomycin). Although graR regulates expression of vraG, the expression of graR was codependent on an intact downstream vraG locus. Collectively, these data support an important role of the graRS and vraFG loci in the sensing of and response to specific CAPs involved in innate host defenses.
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) play important roles in host immune defenses. Plectasin is a defensin-like CAP isolated from the saprophytic fungus Pseudoplectania nigrella. NZ2114 is a novel variant of plectasin with potent activity against Gram-positive bacteria. In this study, we investigated (i) the in vivo pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) characteristics of NZ2114 and (ii) the in vivo efficacy of NZ2114 in comparison with those of two conventional antibiotics, vancomycin or daptomycin, in an experimental rabbit infective endocarditis (IE) model due to a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain (ATCC 33591). All NZ2114 regimens (5, 10, and 20 mg/kg of body weight, intravenously [i.v.], twice daily for 3 days) significantly decreased MRSA densities in cardiac vegetations, kidneys, and spleen versus those in untreated controls, except in one scenario (5 mg/kg, splenic MRSA counts). The efficacy of NZ2114 was clearly dose dependent in all target tissues. At 20 mg/kg, NZ2114 showed a significantly greater efficacy than vancomycin (P < 0.001) and an efficacy similar to that of daptomycin. Of importance, only NZ2114 (in 10- and 20-mg/kg regimens) prevented posttherapy relapse in cardiac vegetations, kidneys, and spleen, while bacterial counts in these target tissues continued to increase in vancomycin- and daptomycin-treated animals. These in vivo efficacies were equivalent and significantly correlated with three PK indices investigated: fCmax/MIC (the maximum concentration of the free, unbound fraction of a drug in serum divided by the MIC), fAUC/MIC (where AUC is the area under the concentration-time curve), and f%T>MIC (%T>MIC is the cumulative percentage of a 24-h period that the drug concentration exceeds the MIC under steady-state pharmacokinetic conditions), as analyzed by a sigmoid maximum-effect (Emax) model (R2 > 0.69). The superior efficacy of NZ2114 in this MRSA IE model suggests the potential for further development of this compound for treating serious MRSA infections.
We investigated the hypothesis that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates developing reduced susceptibilities to daptomycin (DAP; a calcium-dependent molecule acting as a cationic antimicrobial peptide [CAP]) may also coevolve reduced in vitro susceptibilities to host defense cationic antimicrobial peptides (HDPs). Ten isogenic pairs of clinical MRSA DAP-susceptible/DAP-resistant (DAPs/DAPr) strains were tested against two distinct HDPs differing in structure, mechanism of action, and origin (thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal proteins [tPMPs] and human neutrophil peptide-1 [hNP-1]) and one bacterium-derived CAP, polymyxin B (PMB). Seven of 10 DAPr strains had point mutations in the mprF locus (with or without yyc operon mutations), while three DAPr strains had neither mutation. Several phenotypic parameters previously associated with DAPr were also examined: cell membrane order (fluidity), surface charge, and cell wall thickness profiles. Compared to the 10 DAPs parental strains, their respective DAPr strains exhibited (i) significantly reduced susceptibility to killing by all three peptides (P < 0.05), (ii) increased cell membrane fluidity, and (iii) significantly thicker cell walls (P < 0.0001). There was no consistent pattern of surface charge profiles distinguishing DAPs and DAPr strain pairs. Reduced in vitro susceptibility to two HDPs and one bacterium-derived CAP tracked closely with DAPr in these 10 recent MRSA clinical isolates. These results suggest that adaptive mechanisms involved in the evolution of DAPr also provide MRSA with enhanced survivability against HDPs. Such adaptations appear to correlate with MRSA variations in cell membrane order and cell wall structure. DAPr strains with or without mutations in the mprF locus demonstrated significant cross-resistance profiles to these unrelated CAPs.
Cell wall thickening is a common feature among daptomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains. However, the mechanism(s) leading to this phenotype is unknown. We examined a number of cell wall synthesis pathway parameters in an isogenic strain set of S. aureus bloodstream isolates obtained from a patient with recalcitrant endocarditis who failed daptomycin therapy, including the initial daptomycin-susceptible parental strain (strain 616) and two daptomycin-resistant strains (strains 701 and 703) isolated during daptomycin therapy. Transmission electron microscopy demonstrated significantly thicker cell walls in the daptomycin-resistant strains than in the daptomycin-susceptible strain, a finding which was compatible with significant differences in dry cell weight of strain 616 versus strains 701 to 703 (P < 0.05). Results of detailed analysis of cell wall muropeptide composition, the degree of peptide side chain cross-linkage, and the amount of the peptidoglycan precursor, UDP-MurNAc-pentapeptide, were similar in the daptomycin-susceptible and daptomycin-resistant isolates. In contrast, the daptomycin-resistant strains contained less O-acetylated peptidoglycan. Importantly, both daptomycin-resistant strains synthesized significantly more wall teichoic acid (WTA) than the parental strain (P < 0.001). Moreover, the proportion of d-alanylated WTA species was substantially higher in the daptomycin-resistant strains than in the daptomycin-susceptible parental strain (P < 0.05 in comparing strain 616 versus strain 701). The latter phenotypic findings correlated with (i) enhanced tagA and dltA gene expression, respectively, and (ii) an increase in surface positive charge observed in the daptomycin-resistant versus daptomycin-susceptible isolates. Collectively, these data suggest that increases in WTA synthesis and the degree of its d-alanylation may play a major role in the daptomycin-resistant phenotype in some S. aureus strains.
Carotenoid pigments of Staphylococcus aureus provide integrity to its cell membrane (CM) and limit oxidative host defense mechanisms. However, the role of carotenoids in staphylococcal resistance to nonoxidative host defenses has not been characterized. The current study examined the relationship among CM carotenoid content, membrane order, and in vitro susceptibility to daptomycin or to prototypic neutrophil-derived, platelet-derived, or bacterium-derived cationic antimicrobial peptides (human neutrophil defensin-1 [hNP-1], platelet microbicidal proteins [PMPs], or polymyxin B, respectively). A previously characterized methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) isogenic clinical strain set was used, including a parental isolate with an intact carotenoid biosynthetic operon (crtOPQMN) containing the crtM gene encoding early steps in staphyloxanthin biosynthesis, a crtM deletion mutant, and a crtMN multicopy plasmid-complemented variant. Compared to the parental and crtM knockout strains, the crtMN-complemented strain exhibited (i) increased carotenoid production, (ii) increased CM rigidity (P < 0.001), and (iii) uniformly reduced susceptibility to killing by the above-mentioned range of cationic peptides (statistically significant for hNP-1 [20 μg/ml]; P = 0.0037). There were no significant differences in phospholipid composition and asymmetry, fatty acid profiles, surface charge, or cell wall thickness among the strain set. Collectively, these data support the concept that carotenoid biosynthesis can contribute to the ability of S. aureus to subvert nonoxidative host defenses mediated by cationic peptides, potentially by increasing target membrane rigidity.
Persistent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia (PB) (positive blood cultures after ≥7 days of therapy) represents a clinically challenging subset of invasive MRSA infections. In this investigation, we examined the potential correlation of specific virulence signatures with PB versus resolving MRSA bacteremia (RB) (negative blood cultures within 2 to 4 days of therapy) strains. Thirty-six MRSA isolates from patients enrolled in a recent multinational clinical trial were studied for (i) susceptibility to host defense cationic peptides (HDPs) (i.e., thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal proteins [tPMPs] and human neutrophil peptide 1 [hNP-1]); (ii) adherence to host endovascular ligands (fibronectin) and cells (endothelial cells); and (iii) biofilm formation. We found that PB isolates exhibited significantly reduced susceptibilities to tPMPs and hNP-1 (P < 0.001 and P = 0.023, respectively). There was no significant association between the PB outcome and fibronectin binding, endothelial cell binding, or biofilm formation (P = 0.25, 0.97, and 0.064 versus RB strains, respectively). However, multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that the PB outcome was significantly associated with the combination of reduced susceptibilities to HDPs and extent of biofilm formation (P < 0.0001). Similar results were obtained in a second analysis using days of bacteremia as a continuous outcome, showing that reduced HDP susceptibilities and increased biofilm formation cocontributed to predict the duration of bacteremia. Our data indicate that PB isolates have specific pathogenic signatures independent of conventional antimicrobial susceptibility. These combinatorial mosaics can be defined and used to prospectively distinguish PB from RB strains in advance and potentially to predict ultimate clinical outcomes.
The presence of the cationic phospholipid lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (lysyl-PG) in staphylococcal cytoplasmic membranes has been linked to increased resistance to cationic compounds, including antibiotics such as daptomycin as well as host defense antimicrobial peptides. We investigated the effects of lysyl-PG on binding of 6W-RP-1, a synthetic antimicrobial peptide, to lipid vesicles and on peptide-induced membrane permeabilization. Unexpectedly, physiological lysyl-PG concentrations only minimally reduced membrane binding of 6W-RP-1. In contrast, 6W-RP-1-induced dye leakage was severely inhibited by lysyl-PG, suggesting that lysyl-PG primarily impacts membrane defect formation.
The mechanism(s) of daptomycin (DAP) resistance (DAPr) is incompletely defined. Thickened cell walls (CWs) acting as either a mechanical barrier or an affinity trap for DAP have been purported to be a major contributor to the DAPr phenotype. To this end, we studied an isogenic set of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates (pulsotype USA 300) from the bloodstream of a DAP-treated patient with endocarditis in which serial strains exhibited increasing DAPr. Of interest, the DAPr isolate differed from its parental strain in several parameters, including acquisition of a point mutation within the putative synthase domain of the mprF gene in association with enhanced mprF expression, increased synthesis of lysyl-phosphotidylglycerol, an enhanced positive envelope charge, and reduced DAP surface binding. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed no significant increases in CW thickness in the two DAPr isolates (MRSA 11/21 and REF2145) compared with that in the DAP-susceptible (DAPs) parental strain, MRSA 11/11. The rates of Triton X-100-induced autolysis were also identical for the strain set. Furthermore, among six additional clinically isolated DAPs/DAPr S. aureus strain pairs, only three DAPr isolates exhibited CWs significantly thicker than those of the respective DAPs parent. These data confirm that CW thickening is neither universal to DAPr S. aureus nor sufficient to yield the DAPr phenotype among S. aureus strains.
Using isogenic clinical bloodstream Staphylococcus aureus strains from a patient with relapsing endocarditis, we investigated transcriptional profiles of mprF and dlt genes in the context of cell surface charge and daptomycin nonsusceptibility. As in prior studies, a point mutation within mprF was observed in the daptomycin-nonsusceptible strain. However, neither the transcriptional profile of mprF, nor membrane phospholipid analyses were compatible with the anticipated mprF gain-in-function phenotype. In contrast, we demonstrated enhanced dlt expression coincident with increased positive surface charge and reduced daptomycin binding.
Staphylococcus aureus; daptomycin; cationic antimicrobial peptide (CAP); mprF; dlt
Interleukin-8α (IL-8α) is an antimicrobial peptide derived from the chemokine IL-8. Solution NMR was used to determine the atomic resolution structure of IL-8α in SDS micelles. Solid state NMR and tryptophan fluorescence were used to probe the interaction of IL-8α with model membranes. The peptide interacted differently with anionic versus purely zwitterionic micelles or bilayers. Tryptophan fluorescence demonstrated a deeper position of Trp 4 in SDS micelles and POPC/POPG bilayers compared to pure POPC bilayers, consistent with 2H order parameters, which also indicated a deeper position of the peptide in POPC/POPG bilayers compared to POPC bilayers. Paramagnetic probe data showed that IL-8α was situated roughly parallel to the SDS micelle surface, with a slight tilt that positioned the N-terminus more deeply in the micelle compared to the C-terminus. 15N solid-state NMR spectra indicated a similar, nearly parallel position for the peptide in POPC/POPG bilayers. 31P and 2H solid-state NMR demonstrated that the peptide did not induce the formation of any non-lamellar phases and did not significantly disrupt bilayer orientation in aligned model membranes composed of POPC or POPC/POPG.
α-helix; solution structure; micelle; solid-state NMR; aligned lipid bilayers
Candida albicans interacts with oral epithelial cells during oropharyngeal candidiasis and with vascular endothelial cells when it disseminates hematogenously. We set out to identify C. albicans genes that govern interactions with these host cells in vitro. The transcriptional response of C. albicans to the FaDu oral epithelial cell line and primary endothelial cells was determined by microarray analysis. Contact with epithelial cells caused a decrease in transcript levels of genes related to protein synthesis and adhesion, whereas contact with endothelial cells did not significantly influence any specific functional category of genes. Many genes whose transcripts were increased in response to either host cell had not been previously characterized. We constructed mutants with homozygous insertions in 22 of these uncharacterized genes to investigate their function during host-pathogen interaction. By this approach, we found that YCK2, VPS51, and UEC1 are required for C. albicans to cause normal damage to epithelial cells and resist antimicrobial peptides. YCK2 is also necessary for maintenance of cell polarity. VPS51 is necessary for normal vacuole formation, resistance to multiple stressors, and induction of maximal endothelial cell damage. UEC1 encodes a unique protein that is required for resistance to cell membrane stress. Therefore, some C. albicans genes whose transcripts are increased upon contact with epithelial or endothelial cells are required for the organism to damage these cells and withstand the stresses that it likely encounters during growth in the oropharynx and bloodstream.
Mammalian platelets contain an array of antimicrobial peptides, termed platelet microbicidal proteins (PMPs). Human and rabbit PMPs include known chemokines, such as platelet factor-4 (hPF-4); PMP-1 is the rabbit orthologue of hPF-4. Chemokines that also exert direct antimicrobial activity have been termed kinocidins. A consensus peptide domain library representing mammalian PF-4 family members was analyzed to define structural domains contributing to antimicrobial activity against a panel of human pathogens. Secondary conformations were assessed by circular dichroism spectrometry, and molecular modeling was employed to investigate structural correlates of antimicrobial efficacy. Antimicrobial activity against isogenic peptide–susceptible or –resistant S. aureus, S. typhimurium, and C. albicans strain pairs mapped to the C-terminal hemimer (38-74) and modular domains thereof (49-63 and 60-74). Increasing electrostatic charge and steric bulk were general correlates of efficacy. Structural data corroborated spatial distribution of charge, steric bulk and putative secondary structure with organism-specific efficacy. Microbicidal efficacies of the cPMP antimicrobial hemimer and C-terminal peptide (60-74) were retained in a complex human-blood biomatrix assay. Collectively, these results suggest that modular determinants arising from structural components acting independently and cooperatively govern the antimicrobial functions of PF-4 family kinocidins against specific target pathogens.
antimicrobial; peptide; structure; platelet; kinocidin
Persistent MRSA bacteremia (PB) represents an important subset of Staphylococcus aureus infections and correlates with poor clinical outcomes.
We profiled relevant in vitro phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of MRSA isolates from 39 persons with bacteremia (21 had PB and 18 had resolving bacteremia [RB]). We also compared the intrinsic virulence and responsiveness to vancomycin of selected PB and RB strains in an experimental endocarditis model (IE).
PB and RB isolates differed significantly with regard to several in vitro characteristics that are believed to impact endovascular infections. PB isolates exhibited significantly more resistance to the cationic defensin hNP-1, enhanced membrane fluidity, and substantially greater adhesion to fibronectin, fibrinogen, and endothelial cells. Genotypically, PB isolates had higher frequency of SCCmec II, CC30, and spa 16; and higher rates of agr type III, cap8, tst-1, and cna carriage. Finally, a prototypic PB strain was more resistant to vancomycin treatment in the infective endocarditis model than a RB comparator strain, despite equivalent virulence profiles.
Our findings indicate that PB isolates may have specific virulence signatures that distinguish them from RB isolates. These data suggest that methods might be developed to identify patients at higher risk for PB in real-time, thereby optimizing the effectiveness of anti-MRSA therapeutic strategies.
Vancomycin susceptibility, the accessory gene global regulator (agr) genotype and function, staphylococcal cassette chromosome (SCC) mec type, and susceptibility to cationic thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal protein 1 (tPMP-1) have been individually predictive of duration of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia. This investigation evaluated the interrelationship of these factors with time to clearance of MRSA bacteremia during vancomycin therapy in patients without endocarditis.
Vancomycin minimum inhibitory concentration and in vitro killing, agr function (δ-hemolysin activity), agr group, SCCmec type, and survival in tPMP-1 killing assays were determined for 29 MRSA bacteremia isolates.
Increased resistance to tPMP-1 killing was observed with agr group III MRSA (P =.025) and MRSA with reduced or absent agr function (P =.023). The median time to clearance of MRSA bacteremia was earlier for agr group III (3 days) versus group I (10.5 days) or II (15 days) (P =.001). In multivariate analysis, agr group II, reduced tPMP-1 killing in vitro, and prior vancomycin exposure were significant independent predictors of longer MRSA bacteremia duration.
Specific genotypic, phenotypic, and clinical parameters appear to correlate with persistent MRSA bacteremia. The interrelationship of these and other factors probably contributes to vancomycin-mediated clearance of MRSA bacteremia.
Platelets interact with bacterial pathogens through a wide array of cellular and molecular mechanisms. The consequences of this interaction may significantly influence the balance between infection and immunity. On the one hand, recent data indicate that certain bacteria may be capable of exploiting these interactions to gain a virulence advantage. Indeed, certain bacterial pathogens appear to have evolved specific ways in which to subvert activated platelets. Hence, it is conceivable that some bacterial pathogens exploit platelet responses. On the other hand, platelets are now known to possess unambiguous structures and functions of host defense effector cells. Recent discoveries emphasize critical features enabling such functions, including expression of toll-like receptors that detect hallmark signals of bacterial infection, an array of microbicidal peptides, as well as other host defense molecules and functions. These concepts are consistent with increased risk and severity of bacterial infection as correlates of clinical abnormalities in platelet quantity and quality. In these respects, the molecular and cellular roles of platelets in host defense against bacterial pathogens are explored with attention on advances in platelet immunobiology.
Platelets; Host defenses; Bacteria; Pathogen; Interactions
Our previous studies of clinical daptomycin-resistant (Dapr) Staphylococcus aureus strains suggested that resistance is linked to the perturbations of several key cell membrane (CM) characteristics, including the CM order (fluidity), phospholipid content and asymmetry, and relative surface charge. In the present study, we examined the CM profiles of a well-known methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain (MW2) after in vitro selection for DAP resistance by a 20-day serial passage in sublethal concentrations of DAP. Compared to levels for the parental strain, Dapr strains exhibited (i) decreased CM fluidity, (ii) the increased synthesis of total lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (LPG), (iii) the increased flipping of LPG to the CM outer bilayer, and (iv) the increased expression of mprF, the gene responsible for the latter two phenotypes. In addition, we found that the expression of the dlt operon, which also increases positive surface charge, was enhanced in the Dapr mutants. These phenotypic and genotypic changes correlated with reduced DAP surface binding, mirroring observations made in clinical Dapr isolates. In this strain, serial exposure to DAP induced an increase in vancomycin MICs into the vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus (VISA) range (4 μg/ml) in parallel with increasing DAP MICs. Also, this Dapr strain exhibited significantly thicker cell walls than the parental strain, potentially correlating with the coevolution of the VISA phenotype and implicating cell wall structure and/or function in the Dapr phenotype. Importantly, despite the overexpression of mprF and dlt, the relative net positive surface charge was decreased in the Dapr mutants, suggesting that other factors contribute to the surface charge alterations and that a simple charge repulsion mechanism could not entirely explain the Dapr phenotype in these strains.