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.
Previous studies of both clinically-derived and in vitro passage-derived daptomycin–resistant (DAP-R) Staphylococcus aureus strains demonstrated the coincident emergence of increased DAP MICs and resistance to host defense cationic peptides (HDP-R).
In the present investigation, we studied a parental DAP-susceptible (DAP-S) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain and three isogenic variants with increased DAP MICs which were isolated from both DAP-treated and DAP-untreated rabbits with prosthetic joint infections. These strains were compared for: in vitro susceptibility to distinct HDPs differing in size, structure, and origin; i.e.; thrombin-induced platelet microbicidal proteins [tPMPs] and human neutrophil peptide-1 [hNP-1]; cell membrane (CM) phospholipid and fatty acid content; CM order; envelope surface charge; cell wall thickness; and mprF single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and expression profiles.
In comparison with the parental strain, both DAP-exposed and DAP-naive strains exhibited: (i) significantly reduced susceptibility to each HDP (P<0.05); (ii) thicker cell walls (P<0.05); (iii) increased synthesis of CM lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (L-PG); (iv) reduced content of CM phosphatidylglycerol (PG); and (v) SNPs within the mprF locus No significant differences were observed between parental or variant strains in outer CM content of L-PG, CM fluidity, CM fatty acid contents, surface charge, mprF expression profiles or MprF protein content. An isolate which underwent identical in vivo passage, but without evolving increased DAP MICs, retained parental phenotypes and genotype.
These results suggest: i) DAP MIC increases may occur in the absence of DAP exposures in vivo and may be triggered by organism exposure to endogenous HDPs: and ii) gain-in-function SNPs in mprF may contribute to such HDP-DAP cross-resistance phenotypes, although the mechanism of this relationship remains to be defined.
We compared the cell membrane (CM) lipid composition among nine well-characterized daptomycin-susceptible (Daps)/Dap-resistant (Dapr) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain pairs. Compared to the 9 Daps parental strains, Dapr strains (with or without mprF-yycFG mutations) exhibited significantly reduced phosphatidylglycerol (PG) content (P < 0.01), significantly increased total synthesis of lysyl-PG (LPG) (P < 0.01), and reduced carotenoid content (P < 0.05 for 5/9 strains). There were no significant changes in LPG flipping, cardiolipin content, or fatty acid composition among strain pairs.
Treatment of multidrug-resistant enterococci has become a challenging clinical problem in hospitals around the world due to the lack of reliable therapeutic options. Daptomycin (DAP), a cell membrane-targeting cationic antimicrobial lipopeptide, is the only antibiotic with in vitro bactericidal activity against vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). However, the clinical use of DAP against VRE is threatened by emergence of resistance during therapy, but the mechanisms leading to DAP resistance are not fully understood. The mechanism of action of DAP involves interactions with the cell membrane in a calcium-dependent manner, mainly at the level of the bacterial septum. Previously, we demonstrated that development of DAP resistance in vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis is associated with mutations in genes encoding proteins with two main functions, (i) control of the cell envelope stress response to antibiotics and antimicrobial peptides (LiaFSR system) and (ii) cell membrane phospholipid metabolism (glycerophosphoryl diester phosphodiesterase and cardiolipin synthase). In this work, we show that these VRE can resist DAP-elicited cell membrane damage by diverting the antibiotic away from its principal target (division septum) to other distinct cell membrane regions. DAP septal diversion by DAP-resistant E. faecalis is mediated by initial redistribution of cell membrane cardiolipin-rich microdomains associated with a single amino acid deletion within the transmembrane protein LiaF (a member of a three-component regulatory system [LiaFSR] involved in cell envelope homeostasis). Full expression of DAP resistance requires additional mutations in enzymes
(glycerophosphoryl diester phosphodiesterase and cardiolipin synthase) that alter cell membrane phospholipid content. Our findings describe a novel mechanism of bacterial resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides.
IMPORTANCE The emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens is a threat to public health. Understanding the mechanisms of resistance is of crucial importance to develop new strategies to combat multidrug-resistant microorganisms. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are one of the most recalcitrant hospital-associated pathogens against which new therapies are urgently needed. Daptomycin (DAP) is a calcium-decorated antimicrobial lipopeptide whose target is the bacterial cell membrane. A current paradigm suggests that Gram-positive bacteria become resistant to cationic antimicrobial peptides via an electrostatic repulsion of the antibiotic molecule from a more positively charged cell surface. In this work, we provide evidence that VRE use a novel strategy to avoid DAP-elicited killing. Instead of “repelling” the antibiotic from the cell surface, VRE diverts the antibiotic molecule from the septum and “traps” it in distinct membrane regions. We provide genetic and biochemical bases responsible for the mechanism of resistance and disclose new targets for potential antimicrobial development.
The emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens is a threat to public health. Understanding the mechanisms of resistance is of crucial importance to develop new strategies to combat multidrug-resistant microorganisms. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are one of the most recalcitrant hospital-associated pathogens against which new therapies are urgently needed. Daptomycin (DAP) is a calcium-decorated antimicrobial lipopeptide whose target is the bacterial cell membrane. A current paradigm suggests that Gram-positive bacteria become resistant to cationic antimicrobial peptides via an electrostatic repulsion of the antibiotic molecule from a more positively charged cell surface. In this work, we provide evidence that VRE use a novel strategy to avoid DAP-elicited killing. Instead of “repelling” the antibiotic from the cell surface, VRE diverts the antibiotic molecule from the septum and “traps” it in distinct membrane regions. We provide genetic and biochemical bases responsible for the mechanism of resistance and disclose new targets for potential antimicrobial development.
Development of daptomycin (DAP) resistance in Enterococcus faecalis has recently been associated with mutations in genes encoding proteins with two main functions: (i) control of the cell envelope stress response to antibiotics and antimicrobial peptides (LiaFSR system) and (ii) cell membrane phospholipid metabolism (glycerophosphoryl diester phosphodiesterase and cardiolipin synthase [cls]). However, the genetic bases for DAP resistance in Enterococcus faecium are unclear. We performed whole-genome comparative analysis of a clinical strain pair, DAP-susceptible E. faecium S447 and its DAP-resistant derivative R446, which was recovered from a single patient during DAP therapy. By comparative whole-genome sequencing, DAP resistance in R446 was associated with changes in 8 genes. Two of these genes encoded proteins involved in phospholipid metabolism: (i) an R218Q substitution in Cls and (ii) an A292G reversion in a putative cyclopropane fatty acid synthase enzyme. The DAP-resistant derivative R446 also exhibited an S333L substitution in the putative histidine kinase YycG, a member of the YycFG system, which, similar to LiaFSR, has been involved in cell envelope homeostasis and DAP resistance in other Gram-positive cocci. Additional changes identified in E. faecium R446 (DAP resistant) included two putative proteins involved in transport (one for carbohydrate and one for sulfate) and three enzymes predicted to play a role in general metabolism. Exchange of the “susceptible” cls allele from S447 for the “resistant” one belonging to R446 did not affect DAP susceptibility. Our results suggest that, apart from the LiaFSR system, the essential YycFG system is likely to be an important mediator of DAP resistance in some E. faecium strains.
Multiple mechanisms have been correlated with daptomycin-resistance (DAP-R) in Staphylococcus aureus. However, one common phenotype observed in many DAP-R S. Aureus strains is a thickened cell wall (CW). The first evidence for an impact of CW-linked glycopolymers on this phenotype was recently demonstrated in a single, well-characterized DAP-R methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) strain. In this isolate the thickened CW phenotype was linked to an increased production and D-alanylation of wall teichoic acids (WTA). In the current report, we extended these observations to methicillin-resistant daptomycin-sensitive/daptomyin-resistant (DAP-S/DAP-R) strain-pairs. These pairs included methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates with and without single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in mprF (a genetic locus linked to DAP-R phenotype). We found increased CW dry mass in all DAP-R vs DAP-S isolates. This correlated with an increased expression of the WTA biosynthesis gene tagA, as well as an increased amount of WTA in the DAP-R vs DAP-S isolates. In addition, all DAP-R isolates showed a higher proportion of WTA D-alanylation vs their corresponding DAP-S isolate. We also detected an increased positive surface charge amongst the DAP-R strains (presumably related to the enhanced D-alanylation). In comparing the detailed CW composition of all isolate pairs, substantive differences were only detected in one DAP-S/DAP-R pair. The thickened CW phenotype, together with an increased surface charge most likely contributes to either: i) a charge-dependent repulsion of calcium complexed-DAP; and/or ii) steric-limited access of DAP to the bacterial cell envelope target. Taken together well-defined perturbations of CW structural and functional metrics contribute to the DAP-R phenotype and are common phenotypes in DAP-R S. Aureus isolates, both MSSA and MRSA.
Note: Although “daptomycin-nonsusceptibility” is the generally accepted terminology, we have utilized the term “daptomycin resistance” for ease of presentation in this manuscript
A number of cases of both methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains that have developed daptomycin resistance (DAP-R) have been reported. Telavancin (TLV) is a lipoglycopeptide agent with a dual mechanism of activity (cell wall synthesis inhibition plus depolarization of the bacterial cell membrane). Five recent daptomycin-susceptible (DAP-S)/DAP-R MRSA isogenic strain pairs were evaluated for in vitro TLV susceptibility. All five DAP-R strains (DAP MICs ranging from 2 to 4 μg/ml) were susceptible to TLV (MICs of ≤0.38 μg/ml). In vitro time-kill analyses also revealed that several TLV concentrations (1-, 2-, and 4-fold MICs) caused rapid killing against the DAP-R strains. Moreover, for 3 of 5 DAP-R strains (REF2145, A215, and B2.0), supra-MICs of TLV were effective at preventing regrowth at 24 h of incubation. Further, the combination of TLV plus oxacillin (at 0.25× or 0.50× MIC for each agent) increased killing of DAP-R MRSA strains REF2145 and A215 at 24 h (∼2-log and 5-log reductions versus TLV and oxacillin alone, respectively). Finally, using a rabbit model of aortic valve endocarditis caused by DAP-R strain REF2145, TLV therapy produced a mean reduction of >4.5 log10 CFU/g in vegetations, kidneys, and spleen compared to untreated or DAP-treated rabbits. Moreover, TLV-treated rabbits had a significantly higher percentage of sterile tissue cultures (87% in vegetations and 100% in kidney and spleen) than all other treatment groups (P < 0.0001). Together, these results demonstrate that TLV has potent bactericidal activity in vitro and in vivo against DAP-R MRSA isolates.
The aim of this study was to provide a contemporary picture of the presentation, etiology and outcome of infective endocarditis (IE) in a large patient cohort from multiple locations worldwide.
Prospective cohort study of 2781 adults with definite IE admitted to 58 hospitals in 25 countries between June 2000 and September 2005.
The median age of the cohort was 57.9 (IQR 43.2–71.8) years and 72% had native valve IE. Most (77%) patients presented early in the disease (<30 days) with few of the classic clinical hallmarks of IE. Recent health-care exposure was found in one quarter of patients. Staphylococcus aureus was the most common pathogen (31%). Mitral (41%) and aortic (38%) valves were infected most commonly. Complications were common: stroke (17%); embolization other than stroke (23%); heart failure (32%) and intracardiac abscess (14%). Surgical therapy was common (48%) and in-hospital mortality remained high (18%). Prosthetic valve involvement (OR 1.47, 95%CI 1.13–1.90), increasing age (OR 1.30, 95%CI 1.17–1.46 per 10-year interval), pulmonary edema (OR 1.79, 95%CI 1.39–2.30), S. aureus infection (OR 1.54, 95%CI 1.14–2.08), coagulase-negative staphylococcal infection (OR 1.50, 95%CI 1.07–2.10), mitral valve vegetation (OR 1.34, 95%CI 1.06–1.68), and paravalvular complications (OR 2.25, 95%CI 1.64–3.09) were associated with increased risk of in-hospital death, while viridans streptococcal infection (OR 0.52, 95%CI 0.33–0.81) and surgery (OR 0.61, 95%CI 0.44–0.83) were associated with decreased risk.
In the early 21st century, IE is more often an acute disease, characterized by a high rate of S. aureus infection. Mortality remains relatively high.
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.
We used daptomycin plus antistaphylococcal β-lactams (ASBL) to clear refractory MRSA bacteremia. In vitro studies showed enhanced daptomycin bactericidal activity, increased membrane daptomycin binding, and decrease in positive surface charge induced by ASBLs against daptomycin nonsusceptible MRSA. Addition of ASBLs to daptomycin may be of benefit in refractory MRSA bacteremia. (Although the official designation is “daptomycin nonsusceptiblity,” we will use the term “daptomycin-resistance” in this paper for facility of presentation.)
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.