The pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus infective endocarditis (IE) is postulated to involve invasion and damage of endothelial cells (ECs). However, the precise relationships between S. aureus – EC interactions in vitro and IE virulence and treatment outcomes in vivo are poorly defined. Ten methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) clinical isolates previously tested for their virulence and vancomycin responsiveness in an experimental IE model were assessed in vitro for their hemolytic activity, protease production, and capacity to invade and damage ECs. There was a significant positive correlation between the in vitro EC damage caused by these MRSA strains and their virulence during experimental IE (in terms of bacterial densities in target tissues; P < 0.02). Importantly, higher EC damage was also significantly correlated with poor microbiologic response to vancomycin in the IE model (P < 0.001). Interestingly, the extent of EC damage was unrelated to a strain's ability to invade ECs, hemolytic activity and protease production, or β-toxin gene transcription. Inactivation of the agr locus in two MRSA strains caused ∼20% less damage as compared to the corresponding parental strains, indicating that a functional agr is required for maximal EC damage induction. Thus, MRSA-induced EC damage in vitro is a unique virulence phenotype that is independent of many other prototypical MRSA virulence factors, and may be a key biomarker for predicting MRSA virulence potential and antibiotic outcomes during endovascular infections.
The lipopeptide antibiotic, daptomycin (DAP) interacts with the bacterial cell membrane (CM). Development of DAP resistance during therapy in a clinical strain of Enterococcus faecalis was associated with mutations in genes encoding enzymes involved in cell envelope homeostasis and phospholipid metabolism. Here we characterized changes in CM phospholipid profiles associated with development of DAP resistance in clinical enterococcal strains.
Using two clinical strain-pairs of DAP-susceptible and DAP-resistant E. faecalis (S613 vs. R712) and E. faecium (S447 vs. R446) recovered before and after DAP therapy, we compared four distinct CM profiles: phospholipid content, fatty acid composition, membrane fluidity and capacity to be permeabilized and/or depolarized by DAP. Additionally, we characterized the cell envelope of the E. faecium strain-pair by transmission electron microscopy and determined the relative cell surface charge of both strain-pairs.
Both E. faecalis and E. faecium mainly contained four major CM PLs: phosphatidylglycerol (PG), cardiolipin, lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (L-PG) and glycerolphospho-diglycodiacylglycerol (GP-DGDAG). In addition, E. faecalis CMs (but not E. faecium) also contained: i) phosphatidic acid; and ii) two other unknown species of amino-containing PLs. Development of DAP resistance in both enterococcal species was associated with a significant decrease in CM fluidity and PG content, with a concomitant increase in GP-DGDAG. The strain-pairs did not differ in their outer CM translocation (flipping) of amino-containing PLs. Fatty acid content did not change in the E. faecalis strain-pair, whereas a significant decrease in unsaturated fatty acids was observed in the DAP-resistant E. faecium isolate R446 (vs S447). Resistance to DAP in E. faecium was associated with distinct structural alterations of the cell envelope and cell wall thickening, as well as a decreased ability of DAP to depolarize and permeabilize the CM.
Distinct alterations in PL content and fatty acid composition are associated with development of enterococcal DAP resistance.
Previous studies showed serial 20 d in vitro passage of MRSA strain MW2 in sublethal daptomycin (DAP) resulted in diverse perturbations in both cell membrane (CM) and cell wall (CW) characteristics, including increased CM rigidity; increased CW thickness; “gain-in-function” single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the mprF locus (i.e., increased synthesis and translocation of lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (L-PG)); progressive accumulation of SNPs in yyc and rpo locus genes; reduced carotenoid production; cross-resistance to innate host defense peptides. The current study was designed to characterize the reproducibility of these phenotypic and genotypic modifications following in vitro serial passages of the same parental strain. After a second 20d serial in vitro passage of parental MW2, emergence of DAP-R was associated with evolution of several phenotypes closely mirroring previous passage outcomes. However, in contrast to the initial serial passage strain set, we observed (i) only modest increase in L-PG synthesis and no increase in L-PG outer CM translocation; (ii) significantly increased carotenoid synthesis (P < 0.05); (iii) a different order of SNP accumulations (mprF ≫ rpoB ≫ yycG); (iv) a different cadre and locations of such SNPs. Thus, MRSA strains are not “pre-programmed” to phenotypically and/or genotypically adapt in an identical manner during induction of DAP resistance.
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.
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.
Endothelial cells are important in the pathogenesis of bloodstream infections caused by Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus. Numerous investigations have used human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to study microbial-endothelial cell interactions in vitro. However, the use of HUVECs requires a constant supply of umbilical cords, and there are significant donor-to-donor variations in these endothelial cells. The use of an immortalized endothelial cell line would obviate such difficulties. One candidate in this regard is HMEC-1, an immortalized human dermal microvascular endothelial cell line. To determine if HMEC-1 cells are suitable for studying the interactions of C. albicans and S. aureus with endothelial cells in vitro, we compared the interactions of these organisms with HMEC-1 cells and HUVECs. We found that wild-type C. albicans had significantly reduced adherence to and invasion of HMEC-1 cells as compared to HUVECs. Although wild-type S. aureus adhered to and invaded HMEC-1 cells similarly to HUVECs, an agr mutant strain had significantly reduced invasion of HMEC-1 cells, but not HUVECs. Furthermore, HMEC-1 cells were less susceptible to damage induced by C. albicans, but more susceptible to damage caused by S. aureus. In addition, HMEC-1 cells secreted very little IL-8 in response to infection with either organism, whereas infection of HUVECs induced substantial IL-8 secretion. This weak IL-8 response was likely due to the anatomic site from which HMEC-1 cells were obtained because infection of primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells with C. albicans and S. aureus also induced little increase in IL-8 production above basal levels. Thus, C. albicans and S. aureus interact with HMEC-1 cells in a substantially different manner than with HUVECs, and data obtained with one type of endothelial cell cannot necessarily be extrapolated to other types.
The accessory gene regulator (agr) locus has been shown to be important for virulence in several animal models of Staphylococcus aureus infection. However, the role of agr in human infections, and specifically in antibiotic treatment, is controversial. Interestingly, agr dysfunction has been associated with reduced vancomycin responses. To systematically investigate the role of agr in virulence and treatment outcome in the context of endovascular infection, 10 well-characterized vancomycin-susceptible methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) bloodstream isolates (5 agr-I [clonal complex 45, or CC45] and 5 agr-II [CC5]) were studied for (i) agr function, (ii) RNAIII transcriptional profiles, (iii) agr locus sequences, (iv) intrinsic virulence and responses to vancomycin therapy in an experimental infective endocarditis (IE) model, and (v) in vivo RNAIII expression. Significant differences in agr function (determined by delta-hemolysin activity) correlated with the time point of RNAIII transcription (earlier RNAIII onset equals increased agr function). Unexpectedly, four MRSA strains with strong delta-hemolysin activities exhibited significant resistance to vancomycin treatment in experimental IE. In contrast, five of six MRSA strains with weak or no delta-hemolysin activity were highly susceptible to vancomycin therapy in the IE model. agr sequence analyses showed no common single-nucleotide polymorphism predictive of agr functionality. In vivo RNAIII expression in cardiac vegetations did not correlate with virulence or vancomycin treatment outcomes in the IE model. Inactivation of agr in two strains with strong delta-hemolysin activity did not affect virulence or the in vivo efficacy of vancomycin. Our findings suggest that agr dysfunction does not correlate with vancomycin treatment failures in this experimental IE model in two distinct MRSA genetic backgrounds.
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.
In vivo development of daptomycin resistance (DAPr) among Staphylococcus aureus strains, especially methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains, in conjunction with clinical treatment failures, has emerged as a major problem. This has raised the question of DAP-based combination regimens to enhance efficacy against such strains. We studied five recent DAP-susceptible (DAPs)/DAPr clinical MRSA strain pairs obtained from patients who failed DAP monotherapy regimens, as well as one DAPs/DAPr MRSA strain pair in which the resistant strain was generated by in vitro passage in DAP. Of note, we identified a DAP-oxacillin (OX) “seesaw” phenomenon in vitro in which development of DAPr was accompanied by a concomitant fall in OX resistance, as demonstrated by 3- to 4-fold decreases in the OX MIC, a susceptibility shift by population analyses, and enhanced early killing by OX in time-kill assays. In addition, the combination of DAP and OX exerted modest improvement in in vitro bactericidal effects. Using an experimental model of infective endocarditis and two DAPs/DAPr strain pairs, we demonstrated that (i) OX monotherapy was ineffective at clearing DAPr strains from any target tissue in this model (heart valve, kidneys, or spleen) and (ii) DAP-OX combination therapy was highly effective in DAPr strain clearances from these organs. The mechanism(s) of the seesaw effect remains to be defined but does not appear to involve excision of the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) that carries mecA.
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
The binding of bacteria to human platelets is a likely central mechanism in the pathogenesis of infective endocarditis. We have previously found that platelet binding by Streptococcus mitis SF100 is mediated by surface components encoded by a lysogenic bacteriophage, SM1. We now demonstrate that SM1-encoded lysin contributes to platelet binding via its direct interaction with fibrinogen. Far Western blotting of platelets revealed that fibrinogen was the major membrane-associated protein bound by lysin. Analysis of lysin binding with purified fibrinogen in vitro confirmed that these proteins could bind directly, and that this interaction was both saturable and inhibitable. Lysin bound both the Aα and Bβ chains of fibrinogen, but not the γ subunit. Binding of lysin to the Bβ chain was further localized to a region within the fibrinogen D fragment. Disruption of the SF100 lysin gene resulted in an 83±3.1% reduction (mean ± SD) in binding to immobilized fibrinogen by this mutant strain (PS1006). Preincubation of this isogenic mutant with purified lysin restored fibrinogen binding to wild type levels. When tested in a co-infection model of endocarditis, loss of lysin expression resulted in a significant reduction in virulence, as measured by achievable bacterial densities (CFU/g) within vegetations, kidneys, and spleens. These results indicate that bacteriophage-encoded lysin is a multifunctional protein, representing a new class of fibrinogen-binding proteins. Lysin appears to be cell wall-associated through its interaction with choline. Once on the bacterial surface, lysin can bind fibrinogen directly, which appears to be an important interaction for the pathogenesis of endocarditis.
The binding of bacteria to human platelets is thought to be a central event in the development of endocarditis (a life-threatening cardiovascular infection). We have previously found that platelet binding by Streptococcus mitis is mediated by surface components encoded by a bacteriophage contained within the host bacterium. We now show that lysin (an enzyme of bacteriophage origin) contributes to platelet binding via its direct interaction with fibrinogen on the platelet surface. Lysin bound to purified fibrinogen in vitro, and this interaction specifically involved the Aα and Bβ chains of fibrinogen. Binding of lysin to the Bβ chain was further localized to a region within the fibrinogen D fragment. Disruption of the gene encoding lysin gene resulted in a significant reduction in binding to fibrinogen by S. mitis, as well as a major reduction in virulence, as measured by a rat model of endocarditis. These results indicate that lysin is a multifunctional protein, representing a new class of fibrinogen-binding molecules. Lysin is localized to the bacterial surface via its interaction with cell wall choline, where it then can bind fibrinogen directly. Cell surface lysin apparently also contributes to the development of endovascular infections via its previously unrecognized fibrinogen binding activity.
Staphylococci are the leading causes of endovascular infections worldwide. Commonly, these infections involve the formation of biofilms on the surface of biomaterials. Biofilms are a complex aggregation of bacteria commonly encapsulated by an adhesive exopolysaccharide matrix. In staphylococci, this exopolysaccharide matrix is composed of polysaccharide intercellular adhesin (PIA). PIA is synthesized when the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle is repressed. The inverse correlation between PIA synthesis and TCA cycle activity led us to hypothesize that increasing TCA cycle activity would decrease PIA synthesis and biofilm formation and reduce virulence in a rabbit catheter-induced model of biofilm infection. TCA cycle activity can be induced by preventing staphylococci from exogenously acquiring a TCA cycle-derived amino acid necessary for growth. To determine if TCA cycle induction would decrease PIA synthesis in Staphylococcus aureus, the glutamine permease gene (glnP) was inactivated and TCA cycle activity, PIA accumulation, biofilm forming ability, and virulence in an experimental catheter-induced endovascular biofilm (endocarditis) model were determined. Inactivation of this major glutamine transporter increased TCA cycle activity, transiently decreased PIA synthesis, and significantly reduced in vivo virulence in the endocarditis model in terms of achievable bacterial densities in biofilm-associated cardiac vegetations, kidneys, and spleen. These data confirm the close linkage of TCA cycle activity and virulence factor production and establish that this metabolic linkage can be manipulated to alter infectious outcomes.
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.
Fibronectin-binding protein A plays an important role in Staphylococcus aureus endovascular infections. We characterized the sigB-saeRS-fnbA expression network with fibronectin binding in vitro and in an experimental infective endocarditis (IE) model using parental strains RN6390 and SH1000 and their respective isogenic saeRS mutants. In contrast to the in vitro data, there was no influence of saeRS on fnbA expression in the IE model, yet ex vivo fibronectin binding was reduced in saeRS mutants. Moreover, as opposed to the in vitro findings, sigB appeared to have a positive rather than a negative effect on saeRS expression within cardiac vegetations.
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.
We used a well-characterized isogenic set of clinical bloodstream Staphylococcus aureus strains to study (i) regulation of mprF-mediated phosphatidylglycerol lysinylation in the contexts of in vitro daptomycin (DAP) nonsuceptibility and (ii) the role of mprF mutation in endovascular virulence. We observed a correlation between increased expression of a mutant mprF gene and reduced in vitro DAP susceptibility. There were no detectable fitness differences between strains in experimental infective endocarditis.