Daptomycin is a lipopeptide antibiotic that is used clinically against many gram-positive bacterial pathogens and is considered a key frontline bactericidal antibiotic to treat multidrug-resistant enterococci. Emergence of daptomycin resistance during therapy of serious enterococcal infections is a major clinical issue. In this work, we show that deletion of the gene encoding the response regulator, LiaR (a member of the LiaFSR system that controls cell envelope homeostasis), from daptomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis not only reversed resistance to 2 clinically available cell membrane–targeting antimicrobials (daptomycin and telavancin), but also resulted in hypersusceptibility to these antibiotics and to a variety of antimicrobial peptides of diverse origin and with different mechanisms of action. The changes in susceptibility to these antibiotics and antimicrobial peptides correlated with in vivo attenuation in a Caenorhabditis elegans model. Mechanistically, deletion of liaR altered the localization of cardiolipin microdomains in the cell membrane. Our findings suggest that LiaR is a master regulator of the enterococcal cell membrane response to diverse antimicrobial agents and peptides; as such, LiaR represents a novel target to restore the activity of clinically useful antimicrobials against these organisms and, potentially, increase susceptibility to endogenous antimicrobial peptides.
LiaFSR; daptomycin; E. faecalis; antimicrobial peptides
The Staphylococcus aureus two-component regulatory system, GraRS, is involved in resistance to killing by distinct host defense cationic antimicrobial peptides (HD-CAPs). It is believed to regulate downstream target genes such as mprF and dltABCD to modify the S. aureus surface charge. However, the detailed mechanism(s) by which the histidine kinase, GraS, senses specific HD-CAPs is not well defined. Here, we studied a well-characterized clinical methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strain (MW2), its isogenic graS deletion mutant (ΔgraS strain), a nonameric extracellular loop mutant (ΔEL strain), and four residue-specific ΔEL mutants (D37A, P39A, P39S, and D35G D37G D41G strains). The ΔgraS and ΔEL strains were unable to induce mprF and dltA expression and, in turn, demonstrated significantly increased susceptibilities to daptomycin, polymyxin B, and two prototypical HD-CAPs (hNP-1 and RP-1). Further, P39A, P39S, and D35G-D37G-D41G ΔEL mutations correlated with moderate increases in HD-CAP susceptibility. Reductions of mprF and dltA induction by PMB were also found in the ΔEL mutants, suggesting these residues are pivotal to appropriate activation of the GraS sensor kinase. Importantly, a synthetic exogenous soluble EL mimic of GraS protected the parental MW2 strain against hNP-1- and RP-1-mediated killing, suggesting a direct interaction of the EL with HD-CAPs in GraS activation. In vivo, the ΔgraS and ΔEL strains displayed dramatic reductions in achieved target tissue MRSA counts in an endocarditis model. Taken together, our results provide new insights into potential roles of GraS in S. aureus sensing of HD-CAPs to induce adaptive survival responses to these molecules.
Over the past several years, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the mprF open reading frame (ORF) have been proposed to be associated with a gain-of-function phenotype in terms of daptomycin (DAP) nonsusceptibility (referred to as daptomycin resistance [DAP-R] herein for ease of presentation) in Staphylococcus aureus. We investigated the frequencies of SNPs within the mprF ORF and the relationships of such SNPs to cross-resistance between DAP and cationic host defense peptides (HDPs). Thirty-five well-characterized, unique DAP-susceptible (DAP-S) and DAP-R methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates of the clonal complex 5 genotype were used. In addition to mprF SNPs and DAP-HDP cross-resistance, several other key genotypic and phenotypic metrics often associated with DAP-R were delineated, as follows: (i) mprF expression, (ii) membrane phospholipid content, (iii) positive surface charge, (iv) DAP binding, and (v) cell wall thickness profiles. A number of DAP-S strains (MICs of ≤1 μg/ml) exhibited mprF SNPs, occasionally with high-level mprF sequence variation from the genotype reference strain. However, none of these SNPs were localized to well-chronicled mprF hot spot locations associated with DAP-R in S. aureus. In contrast, all 8 DAP-R isolates demonstrated SNPs within such known mprF hot spots. Moreover, only the DAP-R strains showed MprF gain-of-function phenotypes, enhanced mprF expression, higher survival against two prototypical HDPs, and reduced DAP binding. Although a heterogenous array of mprF SNPs were often found in DAP-S strains, only selected hot spot SNPs, combined with concurrent mprF dysregulation, were associated with the DAP-R phenotype.
Background. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of endovascular infections. The staphylococcal accessory regulator A locus (sarA) is a major virulence determinant that may potentially impact methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) persistence in such infections via its influence on biofilm formation.
Methods. Two healthcare-associated MRSA isolates from patients with persistent bacteremia and 2 prototypical community-acquired MRSA strains, as well as their respective isogenic sarA mutants, were studied for in vitro biofilm formation, fibronectin-binding capacity, autolysis, and protease and nuclease activities. These assays were done in the presence or absence of sub–minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of vancomycin. In addition, these strain pairs were compared for intrinsic virulence and responses to vancomycin therapy in experimental infective endocarditis, a prototypical biofilm model.
Results. All sarA mutants displayed significantly reduced biofilm formation and binding to fibronectin but increased protease production in vitro, compared with their respective parental strains. Interestingly, exposure to sub-MICs of vancomycin significantly promoted biofilm formation and fibronectin-binding in parental strains but not in sarA mutants. In addition, all sarA mutants became exquisitely susceptible to vancomycin therapy, compared with their respective parental strains, in the infective endocarditis model.
Conclusions. These observations suggest that sarA activation is important in persistent MRSA endovascular infection, potentially in the setting of biofilm formation.
sarA; biofilm formation; MRSA endocarditis
Development of in vivo daptomycin resistance (DAP-R) among Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates, in association with clinical treatment failures, has become a major therapeutic problem. This issue is especially relevant to methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains in the context of invasive endovascular infections. In the current study, we used three well-characterized and clinically-derived DAP-susceptible (DAP-S) vs. resistant (DAP-R) MRSA strain-pairs to elucidate potential genotypic mechanisms of the DAP-R phenotype. In comparison to the DAP-S parental strains, DAP-R isolates demonstrated (i) altered expression of two key determinants of net positive surface charge, either during exponential or stationary growth phases (i.e., dysregulation of dltA and mprF), (ii) a significant increase in the D-alanylated wall teichoic acid (WTA) content in DAP-R strains, reflecting DltA gain-in-function; (iii) heightened elaboration of lysinylated-phosphatidylglyderol (L-PG) in DAP-R strains, reflecting MprF gain-in-function; (iv) increased cell membrane (CM) fluidity, and (v) significantly reduced susceptibility to prototypic cationic host defense peptides of platelet and leukocyte origins. In the tested DAP-R strains, genes conferring positive surface charge were dysregulated, and their functionality altered. However, there were no correlations between relative surface positive charge or cell wall thickness and the observed DAP-R phenotype. Thus, charge repulsion mechanisms via altered surface charge may not be sufficient to explain the DAP-R outcome. Instead, changes in the compositional or biophysical order of the DAP CM target of such DAP-R strains (i.e., increased fluidity) may be essential to this phenotype. Taken together, DAP-R in S. aureus appears to involve multi-factorial and strain-specific adaptive mechanisms.
The occurrence of mutations in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) during persistent infection leads to antimicrobial resistance but may also impact host-pathogen interactions. Here, we investigate the host-pathogen consequences of 2 mutations arising in clinical MRSA during persistent infection: RpoB H481Y, which is linked to rifampicin resistance, and RelA F128Y, which is associated with an active stringent response. Allelic exchange experiments showed that both mutations cause global transcriptional changes, leading to upregulation of capsule production, with attenuated virulence in a murine bacteremia model and reduced susceptibility to both antimicrobial peptides and whole-blood killing. Disruption of capsule biosynthesis reversed these impacts on innate immune function. These data clearly link MRSA persistence and reduced virulence to the same mechanisms that alter antimicrobial susceptibility. Our study highlights the wider consequences of suboptimal antimicrobial use, where drug resistance and immune escape mechanisms coevolve, thus increasing the likelihood of treatment failure.
Staphylococcus aureus; antibiotic resistance; virulence; persistence
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
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.
Recent perspectives forecast a new paradigm for future “third generation” vaccines based on commonalities found in diverse pathogens or convergent immune defenses to such pathogens. For Staphylococcus aureus, recurring infections and a limited success of vaccines containing S. aureus antigens imply that native antigens induce immune responses insufficient for optimal efficacy. These perspectives exemplify the need to apply novel vaccine strategies to high-priority pathogens. One such approach can be termed convergent immunity, where antigens from non-target organisms that contain epitope homologs found in the target organism are applied in vaccines. This approach aims to evoke atypical immune defenses via synergistic processes that (1) afford protective efficacy; (2) target an epitope from one organism that contributes to protective immunity against another; (3) cross-protect against multiple pathogens occupying a common anatomic or immunological niche; and/or (4) overcome immune subversion or avoidance strategies of target pathogens. Thus, convergent immunity has a potential to promote protective efficacy not usually elicited by native antigens from a target pathogen. Variations of this concept have been mainstays in the history of viral and bacterial vaccine development. A more far-reaching example is the pre-clinical evidence that specific fungal antigens can induce cross-kingdom protection against bacterial pathogens. This trans-kingdom protection has been demonstrated in pre-clinical studies of the recombinant Candida albicans agglutinin-like sequence 3 protein (rAls3) where it was shown that a vaccine containing rAls3 provides homologous protection against C. albicans, heterologous protection against several other Candida species, and convergent protection against several strains of S. aureus. Convergent immunity reflects an intriguing new approach to designing and developing vaccine antigens and is considered here in the context of vaccines to target S. aureus.
Staphylococcus aureus; vaccines; NDV-3; Als3; convergent immunity; convergent antigen
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.
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.
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.
Structure-mechanism relationships are key determinants of host defense peptide efficacy. These relationships are influenced by anatomic, physiologic and microbiologic contexts. Structure-mechanism correlates were assessed for the synthetic peptide RP-1, modeled on microbicidal domains of platelet kinocidins. Antimicrobial efficacies and mechanisms of action against susceptible (S) or resistant (R) Salmonella typhimurium (ST), Staphylococcus aureus (SA), and Candida albicans (CA) strain pairs were studied at pH 7.5 and 5.5. Although RP-1 was active against all study organisms, it exhibited greater efficacy against bacteria at pH 7.5, but greater efficacy against CA at pH 5.5. RP-1 de-energized SA and CA, but caused hyperpolarization of ST in both pH conditions. However, RP-1 permeabilized STS and CA strains at both pH, whereas permeabilization was modest for STR or SA strain at either pH. Biochemical analysis, molecular modeling, and FTIR spectroscopy data revealed that RP-1 has indistinguishable net charge and backbone trajectories at pH 5.5 and 7.5. Yet, concordant with organism-specific efficacy, surface plasmon resonance, and FTIR, molecular dynamics revealed modest helical order increases but greater RP-1 avidity and penetration of bacterial than eukaryotic lipid systems, particularly at pH 7.5. The present findings suggest that pH– and target–cell lipid contexts influence selective antimicrobial efficacy and mechanisms of RP-1 action. These findings offer new insights into selective antimicrobial efficacy and context–specificity of antimicrobial peptides in host defense, and support design strategies for potent anti-infective peptides with minimal concomitant cytotoxicity.
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.