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1.  Protein A Suppresses Immune Responses during Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infection in Guinea Pigs 
mBio  2015;6(1):e02369-14.
Staphylococcus aureus infection is not associated with the development of protective immunity, and disease relapses occur frequently. We hypothesize that protein A, a factor that binds immunoglobulin Fcγ and cross-links VH3 clan B cell receptors (IgM), is the staphylococcal determinant for host immune suppression. To test this, vertebrate IgM was examined for protein A cross-linking. High VH3 binding activity occurred with human and guinea immunoglobulin, whereas mouse and rabbit immunoglobulins displayed little and no binding, respectively. Establishing a guinea pig model of S. aureus bloodstream infection, we show that protein A functions as a virulence determinant and suppresses host B cell responses. Immunization with SpAKKAA, which cannot bind immunoglobulin, elicits neutralizing antibodies that enable guinea pigs to develop protective immunity.
Importance  Staphylococcus aureus is the leading cause of soft tissue and bloodstream infections; however, a vaccine with clinical efficacy is not available. Using mice to model staphylococcal infection, earlier work identified protective antigens; however, corresponding human clinical trials did not reach their endpoints. We show that B cell receptor (IgM) cross-linking by protein A is an important immune evasion strategy of S. aureus that can be monitored in a guinea pig model of bloodstream infection. Further, immunization with nontoxigenic protein A enables infected guinea pigs to elicit antibody responses that are protective against S. aureus. Thus, the guinea pig model may support preclinical development of staphylococcal vaccines.
Staphylococcus aureus is the leading cause of soft tissue and bloodstream infections; however, a vaccine with clinical efficacy is not available. Using mice to model staphylococcal infection, earlier work identified protective antigens; however, corresponding human clinical trials did not reach their endpoints. We show that B cell receptor (IgM) cross-linking by protein A is an important immune evasion strategy of S. aureus that can be monitored in a guinea pig model of bloodstream infection. Further, immunization with nontoxigenic protein A enables infected guinea pigs to elicit antibody responses that are protective against S. aureus. Thus, the guinea pig model may support preclinical development of staphylococcal vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4313907  PMID: 25564466
2.  Staphylococcus aureus degrades neutrophil extracellular traps to promote immune cell death 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;342(6160):863-866.
Bacterial invasion of host tissues triggers polymorphonuclear leukocytes to release DNA (NETs, neutrophil extracellular traps), thereby immobilizing microbes for subsequent clearance by innate defenses including macrophage phagocytosis. We report here that Staphylococcus aureus escapes these defenses by converting NETs to deoxyadenosine, which triggers the caspase-3 mediated death of immune cells. Conversion of NETs to deoxyadenosine requires two enzymes, nuclease and adenosine synthase, that are secreted by S. aureus and necessary for the exclusion of macrophages from staphylococcal abscesses. Thus, the pathogenesis of S. aureus infections has evolved to anticipate host defenses and to repurpose them for the destruction of the immune system.
PMCID: PMC4026193  PMID: 24233725
3.  Bacillus anthracis Acetyltransferases PatA1 and PatA2 Modify the Secondary Cell Wall Polysaccharide and Affect the Assembly of S-Layer Proteins 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(5):977-989.
The envelope of Bacillus anthracis encompasses a proteinaceous S-layer with two S-layer proteins (Sap and EA1). Protein assembly in the envelope of B. anthracis requires S-layer homology domains (SLH) within S-layer proteins and S-layer-associated proteins (BSLs), which associate with the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP), an acetylated carbohydrate that is tethered to peptidoglycan. Here, we investigated the contributions of two putative acetyltransferases, PatA1 and PatA2, on SCWP acetylation and S-layer assembly. We show that mutations in patA1 and patA2 affect the chain lengths of B. anthracis vegetative forms and perturb the deposition of the BslO murein hydrolase at cell division septa. The patA1 and patA2 mutants are defective for the assembly of EA1 in the envelope but retain the ability of S-layer formation with Sap. SCWP isolated from the patA1 patA2 mutant lacked acetyl moieties identified in wild-type polysaccharide and failed to associate with the SLH domains of EA1. A model is discussed whereby patA1- and patA2-mediated acetylation of SCWP enables the deposition of EA1 as well as BslO near the septal region of the B. anthracis envelope.
PMCID: PMC3571321  PMID: 23243307
4.  Vaccine Protection against Bacillus cereus-Mediated Respiratory Anthrax-Like Disease in Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(3):1008-1017.
Bacillus cereus strains harboring a pXO1-like virulence plasmid cause respiratory anthrax-like disease in humans, particularly in welders. We developed mouse models for intraperitoneal as well as aerosol challenge with spores of B. cereus G9241, harboring pBCXO1 and pBC218 virulence plasmids. Compared to wild-type B. cereus G9241, spores with a deletion of the pBCXO1-carried protective antigen gene (pagA1) were severely attenuated, whereas spores with a deletion of the pBC218-carried protective antigen homologue (pagA2) were not. Anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) immunization raised antibodies that bound and neutralized the pagA1-encoded protective antigen (PA1) but not the PA2 orthologue encoded by pagA2. AVA immunization protected mice against a lethal challenge with spores from B. cereus G9241 or B. cereus Elc4, a strain that had been isolated from a fatal case of anthrax-like disease. As the pathogenesis of B. cereus anthrax-like disease in mice is dependent on pagA1 and PA-neutralizing antibodies provide protection, AVA immunization may also protect humans from respiratory anthrax-like death.
PMCID: PMC3584855  PMID: 23319564
5.  Role of Protein A in the Evasion of Host Adaptive Immune Responses by Staphylococcus aureus 
mBio  2013;4(5):e00575-13.
Heritable defects in human B cell/antibody development are not associated with increased susceptibility to Staphylococcus aureus infection. Protein A (SpA), a surface molecule of S. aureus, binds the Fcγ domain of immunoglobulin (Ig) and cross-links the Fab domain of VH3-type B cell receptors (IgM). Here we generated S. aureus spa variants harboring amino acid substitutions at four key residues in each of the five Ig-binding domains of SpA. Wild-type S. aureus required SpA binding to Ig to resist phagocytosis and SpA-mediated B cell receptor cross-linking to block antibody development in mice. The spaKKAA mutant, which cannot bind Ig or IgM, was phagocytosed and elicited B cell responses to key virulence antigens that protected animals against lethal S. aureus challenge. The immune evasive attributes of S. aureus SpA were abolished in µMT mice lacking mature B cells and antibodies. Thus, while wild-type S. aureus escapes host immune surveillance, the spaKKAA variant elicits adaptive responses that protect against recurrent infection.
Staphylococcus aureus causes recurrent skin and bloodstream infections without eliciting immunity. Heritable defects in neutrophil and T cell function, but not B cell or antibody development, are associated with increased incidence of S. aureus infection, and efforts to develop antibody-based S. aureus vaccines have thus far been unsuccessful. We show here that the Fcγ and VH3-type Fab binding activities of staphylococcal protein A (SpA) are essential for S. aureus escape from host immune surveillance in mice. The virulence attributes of SpA in mice required mature B cells and immunoglobulin. These results suggest that antibodies and B cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of staphylococcal infections and provide insights into the development of a vaccine against S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC3760252  PMID: 23982075
6.  Sortase-conjugation generates a capsule vaccine that protects guinea pigs against Bacillus anthracis 
Vaccine  2012;30(23):3435-3444.
Capsules protect bacteria against phagocytic clearance. Capsular polysaccharides or polyglutamates have evolved also to resist antigen presentation by immune cells, thereby interfering with the production of opsonophagocytic antibodies. Linking capsular material to a carrier protein stimulates its presentation to the immune system. For many conjugate vaccines this is achieved by a process of random chemical cross-linking. Here we describe a new technology, designated sortase-conjugation, which generates a single amide bond between the C-terminal end of a carrier protein and the capsular material. Sortase-conjugation was used to link the poly-D-γ-glutamic acid (PDGA) capsule of Bacillus anthracis to the receptor binding domain (D4) of protective antigen (PagA). When used as a vaccine, PDGA-D4 conjugate elicited robust antibody responses against both capsule and D4. Immunization with PDGA-D4 afforded guinea pigs complete protection against anthrax challenge with wild-type or pagA mutant B. anthracis Ames.
PMCID: PMC3538850  PMID: 22449424
7.  Abscess Formation and Alpha-Hemolysin Induced Toxicity in a Mouse Model of Staphylococcus aureus Peritoneal Infection 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(10):3721-3732.
Staphylococcus aureus is a frequent cause of skin infection and sepsis in humans. Preclinical vaccine studies with S. aureus have used a mouse model with intraperitoneal challenge and survival determination as a measure for efficacy. To appreciate the selection of protective antigens in this model, we sought to characterize the pathological attributes of S. aureus infection in the peritoneal cavity. Testing C57BL/6J and BALB/c mice, >109 CFU of S. aureus Newman were needed to produce a lethal outcome in 90% of animals infected via intraperitoneal injection. Both necropsy and histopathology revealed the presence of intraperitoneal abscesses in the vicinity of inoculation sites. Abscesses were comprised of fibrin as well as collagen deposits and immune cells with staphylococci replicating at the center of these lesions. Animals that succumbed to challenge harbored staphylococci in abscess lesions and in blood. The establishment of lethal infections, but not the development of intraperitoneal abscesses, was dependent on S. aureus expression of alpha-hemolysin (Hla). Active immunization with nontoxigenic HlaH35L or passive immunization with neutralizing monoclonal antibodies protected mice against early lethal events associated with intraperitoneal S. aureus infection but did not affect the establishment of abscess lesions. These results characterize a mouse model for the study of intraperitoneal abscess formation by S. aureus, a disease that occurs frequently in humans undergoing continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis for end-stage renal disease.
PMCID: PMC3457571  PMID: 22802349
8.  Coagulases as Determinants of Protective Immune Responses against Staphylococcus aureus 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(10):3389-3398.
During infection, Staphylococcus aureus secretes two coagulases (Coa and von Willebrand factor binding protein [vWbp]), which, following an association with host prothrombin and fibrinogen, form fibrin clots and enable the establishment of staphylococcal disease. Within the genomes of different S. aureus isolates, coagulase gene sequences are variable, and this has been exploited for a classification of types. We show here that antibodies directed against the variable prothrombin binding portion of coagulases confer type-specific immunity through the neutralization of S. aureus clotting activity and protection from staphylococcal disease in mice. By combining variable portions of coagulases from North American isolates into hybrid Coa and vWbp proteins, a subunit vaccine that provided protection against challenge with different coagulase-type S. aureus strains in mice was derived.
PMCID: PMC3457572  PMID: 22825443
9.  Staphylococcus aureus Secretes Coagulase and von Willebrand Factor Binding Protein to Modify the Coagulation Cascade and Establish Host Infections 
Journal of Innate Immunity  2012;4(2):141-148.
Clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus secrete coagulases, polypeptides that bind to and activate prothrombin, thereby converting fibrinogen to fibrin and promoting the clotting of plasma or blood. Two staphylococcal products, the canonical coagulase (Coa) as well as the recently identified von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp), promote similar modifications of the coagulation cascade during host infection. Staphylococcal binding to fibrinogen or fibrin is an important attribute of disease pathogenesis, which leads to the formation of abscesses and bacterial persistence in host tissues and also enables the pathogen to cause lethal sepsis. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the product of coagulase activity, staphylococci captured within a fibrin meshwork, enable this pathogen to disseminate as thromboembolic lesions and to resist opsonophagocytic clearance by host immune cells. In addition, the coagulation products of staphylococci appear to display discrete differences when compared to those of thrombin-mediated coagulation, the latter representing a key innate defense mechanism against many invading pathogens. Preclinical evidence suggests that inactivation or neutralization of coagulases may prevent the pathogenesis of staphylococcal infections, a strategy that could be used to combat the current epidemic of hospital-acquired infections with drug-resistant S. aureus isolates.
PMCID: PMC3388267  PMID: 22222316
Staphylococcus aureus infection; Coagulation; Host defense; Neutrophils; Proteinases; Sepsis
10.  Secretion Genes as Determinants of Bacillus anthracis Chain Length 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(15):3841-3850.
Bacillus anthracis grows in chains of rod-shaped cells, a trait that contributes to its escape from phagocytic clearance in host tissues. Using a genetic approach to search for determinants of B. anthracis chain length, we identified mutants with insertional lesions in secA2. All isolated secA2 mutants exhibited an exaggerated chain length, whereas the dimensions of individual cells were not changed. Complementation studies revealed that slaP (S-layer assembly protein), a gene immediately downstream of secA2 on the B. anthracis chromosome, is also a determinant of chain length. Both secA2 and slaP are required for the efficient secretion of Sap and EA1 (Eag), the two S-layer proteins of B. anthracis, but not for the secretion of S-layer-associated proteins or of other secreted products. S-layer assembly via secA2 and slaP contributes to the proper positioning of BslO, the S-layer-associated protein, and murein hydrolase, which cleaves septal peptidoglycan to separate chains of bacilli. SlaP was found to be both soluble in the bacterial cytoplasm and associated with the membrane. The purification of soluble SlaP from B. anthracis-cleared lysates did not reveal a specific ligand, and the membrane association of SlaP was not dependent on SecA2, Sap, or EA1. We propose that SecA2 and SlaP promote the efficient secretion of S-layer proteins by modifying the general secretory pathway of B. anthracis to transport large amounts of Sap and EA1.
PMCID: PMC3416568  PMID: 22609926
11.  ABI domain containing proteins contribute to surface protein display and cell division in Staphylococcus aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2010;78(1):238-252.
The human pathogen Staphyloccocus aureus requires cell wall anchored surface proteins to cause disease. During cell division, surface proteins with YSIRK signal peptides are secreted into the cross wall, a layer of newly synthesized peptidoglycan between separating daughter cells. The molecular determinants for the trafficking of surface proteins are, however, still unknown. We screened mutants with non-redundant transposon insertions by fluorescence-activated cell sorting for reduced deposition of protein A (SpA) into the staphylococcal envelope. Three mutants, each of which harbored transposon insertions in genes for transmembrane proteins, displayed greatly reduced envelope abundance of SpA and surface proteins with YSIRK signal peptides. Characterization of the corresponding mutations identified three transmembrane proteins with abortive infectivity (ABI) domains, elements first described in lactococci for their role in phage exclusion. Mutations in genes for ABI domain proteins, designated spdA, spdB and spdC (surface protein display), diminish the expression of surface proteins with YSIRK signal peptides, but not of precursor proteins with conventional signal peptides. spdA, spdB and spdC mutants display an increase in the thickness of cross walls and in the relative abundance of staphylococci with cross walls, suggesting that spd mutations may represent a possible link between staphylococcal cell division and protein secretion.
PMCID: PMC3538852  PMID: 20923422
12.  Protein A-Specific Monoclonal Antibodies and Prevention of Staphylococcus aureus Disease in Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(10):3460-3470.
Staphylococcus aureus is a leading cause of human soft tissue infections and bacterial sepsis. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains (methicillin-resistant S. aureus [MRSA]) has prompted research into staphylococcal vaccines and preventive measures. The envelope of S. aureus is decorated with staphylococcal protein A (SpA), which captures the Fcγ portion of immunoglobulins to prevent opsonophagocytosis and associates with the Fab portion of VH3-type B cell receptors to trigger B cell superantigen activity. Nontoxigenic protein A (SpAKKAA), when used as an immunogen in mice, stimulates humoral immune responses that neutralize the Fcγ and the VH3+ Fab binding activities of SpA and provide protection from staphylococcal abscess formation in mice. Here, we isolated monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against SpAKKAA that, by binding to the triple-helical bundle fold of its immunoglobulin binding domains (IgBDs), neutralize the Fcγ and Fab binding activities of SpA. SpAKKAA MAbs promoted opsonophagocytic killing of MRSA in mouse and human blood, provided protection from abscess formation, and stimulated pathogen-specific immune responses in a mouse model of staphylococcal disease. Thus, SpAKKAA MAbs may be useful for the prevention and therapy of staphylococcal disease in humans.
PMCID: PMC3457578  PMID: 22825452
13.  Activation of Inhibitors by Sortase Triggers Irreversible Modification of the Active Site*S 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2007;282(32):23129-23139.
Sortases anchor surface proteins to the cell wall of Gram-positive pathogens through recognition of specific motif sequences. Loss of sortase leads to large reductions in virulence, which identifies sortase as a target for the development of antibacterials. By screening 135,625 small molecules for inhibition, we report here that aryl (β-amino)ethyl ketones inhibit sortase enzymes from staphylococci and bacilli. Inhibition of sortases occurs through an irreversible, covalent modification of their active site cysteine. Sortases specifically activate this class of molecules via β-elimination, generating a reactive olefin intermediate that covalently modifies the cysteine thiol. Analysis of the three-dimensional structure of Bacillus anthracis sortase B with and without inhibitor provides insights into the mechanism of inhibition and reveals binding pockets that can be exploited for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3366505  PMID: 17545669
14.  Protein secretion and surface display in Gram-positive bacteria 
The cell wall peptidoglycan of Gram-positive bacteria functions as a surface organelle for the transport and assembly of proteins that interact with the environment, in particular, the tissues of an infected host. Signal peptide-bearing precursor proteins are secreted across the plasma membrane of Gram-positive bacteria. Some precursors carry C-terminal sorting signals with unique sequence motifs that are cleaved by sortase enzymes and linked to the cell wall peptidoglycan of vegetative forms or spores. The sorting signals of pilin precursors are cleaved by pilus-specific sortases, which generate covalent bonds between proteins leading to the assembly of fimbrial structures. Other precursors harbour surface (S)-layer homology domains (SLH), which fold into a three-pronged spindle structure and bind secondary cell wall polysaccharides, thereby associating with the surface of specific Gram-positive microbes. Type VII secretion is a non-canonical secretion pathway for WXG100 family proteins in mycobacteria. Gram-positive bacteria also secrete WXG100 proteins and carry unique genes that either contribute to discrete steps in secretion or represent distinctive substrates for protein transport reactions.
PMCID: PMC3297441  PMID: 22411983
type VII secretion; WXG protein; sortase; sorting signal; surface-layer homology domain; surface layer
15.  Enzymatic properties of Staphylococcus aureus adenosine synthase (AdsA) 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:56.
Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen that produces extracellular adenosine to evade clearance by the host immune system, an activity attributed to the 5'-nucleotidase activity of adenosine synthase (AdsA). In mammals, conversion of adenosine triphosphate to adenosine is catalyzed in a two-step process: ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolases (ecto-NTDPases) hydrolyze ATP and ADP to AMP, whereas 5'-nucleotidases hydrolyze AMP to adenosine. NTPDases harbor apyrase conserved regions (ACRs) that are critical for activity.
NTPDase ACR motifs are absent in AdsA, yet we report here that recombinant AdsA hydrolyzes ADP and ATP in addition to AMP. Competition assays suggest that hydrolysis occurs following binding of all three substrates at a unique site. Alanine substitution of two amino acids, aspartic acid 127 and histidine 196 within the 5'-nucleotidase signature sequence, leads to reduced AMP or ADP hydrolysis but does not affect the binding of these substrates.
Collectively, these results provide insight into the unique ability of AdsA to produce adenosine through the consecutive hydrolysis of ATP, ADP and AMP, thereby endowing S. aureus with the ability to modulate host immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3213008  PMID: 22035583
16.  Preventing Staphylococcus aureus Sepsis through the Inhibition of Its Agglutination in Blood 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(10):e1002307.
Staphylococcus aureus infection is a frequent cause of sepsis in humans, a disease associated with high mortality and without specific intervention. When suspended in human or animal plasma, staphylococci are known to agglutinate, however the bacterial factors responsible for agglutination and their possible contribution to disease pathogenesis have not yet been revealed. Using a mouse model for S. aureus sepsis, we report here that staphylococcal agglutination in blood was associated with a lethal outcome of this disease. Three secreted products of staphylococci - coagulase (Coa), von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp) and clumping factor (ClfA) – were required for agglutination. Coa and vWbp activate prothrombin to cleave fibrinogen, whereas ClfA allowed staphylococci to associate with the resulting fibrin cables. All three virulence genes promoted the formation of thromboembolic lesions in heart tissues. S. aureus agglutination could be disrupted and the lethal outcome of sepsis could be prevented by combining dabigatran-etexilate treatment, which blocked Coa and vWbp activity, with antibodies specific for ClfA. Together these results suggest that the combined administration of direct thrombin inhibitors and ClfA-antibodies that block S. aureus agglutination with fibrin may be useful for the prevention of staphylococcal sepsis in humans.
Author Summary
Staphylococcus aureus secretes factors that perturb blood coagulation in infected hosts. We report here that three bacterial products – coagulase (Coa), von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp) and clumping factor (ClfA) - act together and promote agglutination, the association of staphylococci with polymerized fibrin cables. Staphylococcal agglutination was associated with thromboembolic lesions in heart tissues and a lethal outcome of S. aureus sepsis in mice. Inhibition of Coa and vWbp with direct thrombin inhibitors, drugs already approved for the prevention of stroke, as well as passive transfer of antibodies specific for Coa, vWbp and ClfA could prevent the pathogenesis of S. aureus sepsis. These results suggest new preventive and/or therapeutic strategies that may improve the outcome of S. aureus sepsis in humans, a disease that is otherwise associated with high mortality.
PMCID: PMC3197598  PMID: 22028651
17.  EsaD, a Secretion Factor for the Ess Pathway in Staphylococcus aureus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(7):1583-1589.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the Sec-independent Ess secretion pathway, an ortholog of mycobacterial T7 secretion systems which is required for the virulence of this Gram-positive microbe. The Ess (ESX secretion) pathway was previously defined as a genomic cluster of eight genes, esxA, esaA, essA, essB, esaB, essC, esaC, and esxB. essABC encode membrane proteins involved in the stable expression of esxA, esxB, and esaC, genes specifying three secreted polypeptide substrates. esaB, which encodes a small cytoplasmic protein, represses the synthesis of EsaC but not that of EsxA and EsxB. Here we investigated a hitherto uncharacterized gene, esaD, located downstream of esxB. Expression of esaD is activated by mutations in esaB and essB. EsaD, the 617-amino-acid product of esaD, is positioned in the membrane and is also accessible to EsaD-specific antibodies on the bacterial surface. S. aureus mutants lacking esaD are defective in the secretion of EsxA. Following intravenous inoculation of mice, S. aureus esaD mutants generate fewer abscesses with a reduced bacterial load compared to wild-type parent strain Newman. The chromosomes of Listeria and Bacillus species with Ess pathways also harbor esaD homologues downstream of esxB, suggesting that the contributory role of EsaD in Ess secretion may be shared among Gram-positive pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3067666  PMID: 21278286
18.  IsdA and IsdB antibodies protect mice against Staphylococcus aureus abscess formation and lethal challenge 
Vaccine  2010;28(38):6382-6392.
Staphylococcus aureus is the most frequent cause of bacteremia and hospital-acquired infection, however a vaccine that prevents staphylococcal disease is currently not available. Two sortase-anchored surface proteins, IsdA and IsdB, have been identified as subunit vaccines that, following active immunization, protect experimental animals against intravenous challenge with staphylococci. Here we investigate the molecular basis of this immunity and report that, when passively transferred to naïve mice, purified antibodies directed against IsdA or IsdB protected against staphylococcal abscess formation and lethal intravenous challenge. When added to mouse blood, IsdA- or IsdB-specific antibodies did not promote rapid opsonophagocytic killing of wild-type staphylococci. Antibodies directed against IsdA interfered with heme-binding and IsdB antibodies perturbed the ability of this surface protein to bind hemoglobin. As the structural genes for isdA and isdB are required for heme-iron scavenging during the pathogenesis of infection, we hypothesize that IsdA and IsdB antibodies may at least in part provide protection against staphylococci by interfering with the pathogen's heme-iron scavenging mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3095377  PMID: 20226248
Staphylococcus aureus; IsdA; IsdB; Vaccine; Heme-iron-transport
19.  Nontoxigenic protein A vaccine for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in mice 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2010;207(9):1863-1870.
The current epidemic of hospital- and community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections has caused significant human morbidity, but a protective vaccine is not yet available. Prior infection with S. aureus is not associated with protective immunity. This phenomenon involves staphylococcal protein A (SpA), an S. aureus surface molecule that binds to Fcγ of immunoglobulin (Ig) and to the Fab portion of VH3-type B cell receptors, thereby interfering with opsonophagocytic clearance of the pathogen and ablating adaptive immune responses. We show that mutation of each of the five Ig-binding domains of SpA with amino acid substitutions abolished the ability of the resulting variant SpAKKAA to bind Fcγ or Fab VH3 and promote B cell apoptosis. Immunization of mice with SpAKKAA raised antibodies that blocked the virulence of staphylococci, promoted opsonophagocytic clearance, and protected mice against challenge with highly virulent MRSA strains. Furthermore, SpAKKAA immunization enabled MRSA-challenged mice to mount antibody responses to many different staphylococcal antigens.
PMCID: PMC2931167  PMID: 20713595
20.  Contribution of Coagulases towards Staphylococcus aureus Disease and Protective Immunity 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(8):e1001036.
The bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus seeds abscesses in host tissues to replicate at the center of these lesions, protected from host immune cells via a pseudocapsule. Using histochemical staining, we identified prothrombin and fibrin within abscesses and pseudocapsules. S. aureus secretes two clotting factors, coagulase (Coa) and von Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp). We report here that Coa and vWbp together are required for the formation of abscesses. Coa and vWbp promote the non-proteolytic activation of prothrombin and cleavage of fibrinogen, reactions that are inhibited with specific antibody against each of these molecules. Coa and vWbp specific antibodies confer protection against abscess formation and S. aureus lethal bacteremia, suggesting that coagulases function as protective antigens for a staphylococcal vaccine.
Author Summary
Clinical isolates of the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus secrete coagulase (Coa), a polypeptide that binds to and activates prothrombin, thereby converting fibrinogen to fibrin and promoting clotting of plasma or blood. Another secreted coagulase, designated von-Willebrand factor binding protein (vWbp), catalyzes a similar reaction. Staphylococcal binding to fibrinogen or fibrin is an important attribute of disease pathogenesis, which leads to the formation of abscesses and bacterial persistence in host tissues. We report here that Coa and vWbp are essential for S. aureus strain Newman abscess formation and persistence in host tissues. Antibodies directed against Coa or vWbp prevent coagulase binding to prothrombin or fibrinogen and confer protection against challenge with S. aureus Newman or the methicillin-resistant S. aureus isolate USA300 LAC in mouse models of abscess formation or lethal sepsis. These results suggest that coagulases may be used as vaccine antigens to elicit antibodies that protect humans against S. aureus infections.
PMCID: PMC2916881  PMID: 20700445
21.  Staphylococcus aureus synthesizes adenosine to escape host immune responses 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(11):2417-2427.
Staphylococcus aureus infects hospitalized or healthy individuals and represents the most frequent cause of bacteremia, treatment of which is complicated by the emergence of methicillin-resistant S. aureus. We examined the ability of S. aureus to escape phagocytic clearance in blood and identified adenosine synthase A (AdsA), a cell wall–anchored enzyme that converts adenosine monophosphate to adenosine, as a critical virulence factor. Staphylococcal synthesis of adenosine in blood, escape from phagocytic clearance, and subsequent formation of organ abscesses were all dependent on adsA and could be rescued by an exogenous supply of adenosine. An AdsA homologue was identified in the anthrax pathogen, and adenosine synthesis also enabled escape of Bacillus anthracis from phagocytic clearance. Collectively, these results suggest that staphylococci and other bacterial pathogens exploit the immunomodulatory attributes of adenosine to escape host immune responses.
PMCID: PMC2768845  PMID: 19808256
22.  Structures of Sortase B from Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus anthracis Reveal Catalytic Amino Acid Triad in the Active Site 
Structure (London, England : 1993)  2004;12(7):1147-1156.
Surface proteins attached by sortases to the cell wall envelope of bacterial pathogens play important roles during infection. Sorting and attachment of these proteins is directed by C-terminal signals. Sortase B of S. aureus recognizes a motif NPQTN, cleaves the polypeptide after the Thr residue, and attaches the protein to pentaglycine cross-bridges. Sortase B of B. anthracis is thought to recognize the NPKTG motif, and attaches surface proteins to m-diaminopimelic acid cross-bridges. We have determined crystal structure of sortase B from B. anthracis and S. aureus at 1.6 and 2.0 Å resolutions, respectively. These structures show a β-barrel fold with α-helical elements on its outside, a structure thus far exclusive to the sortase family. A putative active site located on the edge of the β-barrel is comprised of a Cys-His-Asp catalytic triad and presumably faces the bacterial cell surface. A putative binding site for the sorting signal is located nearby.
PMCID: PMC2792001  PMID: 15242591
23.  EsaC substrate for the ESAT-6 Secretion Pathway and its role in persistent infections of S. aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2008;69(3):736-746.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the specialized secretion system Ess (ESAT-6 secretion system). The ess locus is a cluster of eight genes (esxAB, essABC, esaABC) of which esxA and esxB display homology to secreted ESAT-6 proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. EsxA and EsxB require EssA, EssB and EssC for transport across the staphylococcal envelope. Herein, we examine the role of EsaB and EsaC and show that EsaB is a negative regulator of EsaC. Further, EsaC production is repressed when staphylococci are grown in broth and increased when staphylococci replicate in serum or infected hosts. EsaB is constitutively produced and remains in the cytoplasm whereas EsaC is secreted. This secretion requires an intact Ess pathway. Mutants lacking esaB or esaC display only a small defect in acute infection, but remarkably are unable to promote persistent abscesses during animal infection. Together, the data suggest a model whereby EsaB controls the production of effector molecules that are important for host pathogen interaction. One such effector, EsaC, is a secretion substrate of the Ess pathway and implements its pathogenic function during infection.
PMCID: PMC2597432  PMID: 18554323
WXG100 proteins; virulence; abscess formation
24.  Staphylococcus aureus Mutants with Increased Lysostaphin Resistance 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(17):6286-6297.
Staphylococcus simulans secretes lysostaphin, a bacteriolytic enzyme that specifically binds to the cell wall envelope of Staphylococcus aureus and cleaves the pentaglycine cross bridges of peptidoglycan, thereby killing staphylococci. The study of S. aureus mutants with resistance to lysostaphin-mediated killing has revealed biosynthetic pathways for cell wall assembly. To identify additional genes involved in cell wall envelope biosynthesis, we have screened a collection of S. aureus strain Newman transposon mutants for lysostaphin resistance. Bursa aurealis insertion in SAV2335, encoding a polytopic membrane protein with predicted protease domain, caused a high degree of lysostaphin resistance, similar to the case for a previously described femAB promoter mutant. In contrast to the case for this femAB mutant, transposon insertion in SAV2335, herein named lyrA (lysostaphin resistance A), did not cause gross alterations of cell wall cross bridges such as truncations of pentaglycine to tri- or monoglycine. Also, inactivation of LyrA in a methicillin-resistant S. aureus strain did not precipitate a decrease in β-lactam resistance as observed for fem (factor essential for methicillin resistance) mutants. Lysostaphin bound to the cell wall envelopes of lyrA mutants in a manner similar to that for wild-type staphylococci. Lysostaphin resistance of lyrA mutants is attributable to altered cell wall envelope properties and may in part be due to increased abundance of altered cross bridges. Other lyr mutants with intermediate lysostaphin resistance carried bursa aurealis insertions in genes specifying GTP pyrophosphokinase or enzymes of the purine biosynthetic pathway.
PMCID: PMC1595375  PMID: 16923896
25.  Characterization of the Yersinia enterocolitica Type III Secretion ATPase YscN and Its Regulator, YscL 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(10):3525-3534.
Type III secretion is a mechanism used by a broad range of gram-negative bacteria to neutralize eukaryotic defenses by enabling translocation of bacterial proteins directly into the cytoplasm of host cells. The bacterial energy source for secretion is ATP, which is consumed by an ATPase that couples ATP hydrolysis to the unfolding of secreted proteins and the dissociation of their chaperones just prior to secretion. By studying the biochemical properties of YscN and YscL of Yersinia enterocolitica, we have characterized them as the ATPase and ATPase regulator, respectively, of the type III secretion system of this organism. In vivo, YscL and YscN interact with each other, and the overexpression of glutathione S-transferase-YscL abolishes secretion and down-regulates the expression of secretion apparatus components.
PMCID: PMC1482870  PMID: 16672607

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