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1.  GneZ, a UDP-GlcNAc 2-Epimerase, Is Required for S-Layer Assembly and Vegetative Growth of Bacillus anthracis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(16):2969-2978.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, forms an S-layer atop its peptidoglycan envelope and displays S-layer proteins and Bacillus S-layer-associated (BSL) proteins with specific functions to support cell separation of vegetative bacilli and growth in infected mammalian hosts. S-layer and BSL proteins bind via the S-layer homology (SLH) domain to the pyruvylated secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP) with the repeat structure [→4)-β-ManNAc-(1→4)-β-GlcNAc-(1→6)-α-GlcNAc-(1→]n, where α-GlcNAc and β-GlcNAc are substituted with two and one galactosyl residues, respectively. B. anthracis gneY (BAS5048) and gneZ (BAS5117) encode nearly identical UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase enzymes that catalyze the reversible conversion of UDP-GlcNAc and UDP-ManNAc. UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase enzymes have been shown to be required for the attachment of the phage lysin PlyG with the bacterial envelope and for bacterial growth. Here, we asked whether gneY and gneZ are required for the synthesis of the pyruvylated SCWP and for S-layer assembly. We show that gneZ, but not gneY, is required for B. anthracis vegetative growth, rod cell shape, S-layer assembly, and synthesis of pyruvylated SCWP. Nevertheless, inducible expression of gneY alleviated all the defects associated with the gneZ mutant. In contrast to vegetative growth, neither germination of B. anthracis spores nor the formation of spores in mother cells required UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase activity.
PMCID: PMC4135639  PMID: 24914184
2.  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
3.  Secretion of atypical protein subtrates by the ESAT-6 Secretion System of Staphylococcus aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2013;90(4):734-743.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the specialized ESAT-6 Secretion System (ESS). EsxA and EsxB are secreted by the ESS pathway, and share sequence features of ESAT-6 and CFP-10 of the Type VII Secretion System (T7SS) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Unlike ESAT-6 and CFP-10, EsxA and EsxB do not interact. Instead, EsxB associates with a novel substrate, EsxD, and EsxA dimerizes with itself or EsxC (EsaC). Unlike EsxA and EsxB, EsxC and EsxD do not share obvious sequence features of WXG100 proteins nor PE/PPE and Esp families of proteins, all of which belong to the pfam EsxAB clan of mycobacterial T7SS. EsxD carries the C terminal motif YxxxD/E that has been proposed to target T7 substrates for secretion in mycobacteria. Here, we find that deletion, but not amino acid substitutions, in this motif prevent secretion of EsxA and EsxC but not EsxB or EsxD. This is unlike the genetic inactivation of esxA, esxB, esxC or esxD that leads to loss of secretion of all four substrates. Thus, substrate secretion can be uncoupled by deleting the last six amino acids of EsxD. The physical association of EsxC and EsxD with canonical WXG100 proteins suggests that these proteins belong to the EsxAB clan.
PMCID: PMC3951145  PMID: 24033479
4.  The Giant Protein Ebh Is a Determinant of Staphylococcus aureus Cell Size and Complement Resistance 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(5):971-981.
Staphylococcus aureus USA300, the clonal type associated with epidemic community-acquired methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections, displays the giant protein Ebh on its surface. Mutations that disrupt the ebh reading frame increase the volume of staphylococcal cells and alter the cross wall, a membrane-enclosed peptidoglycan synthesis and assembly compartment. S. aureus ebh variants display increased sensitivity to oxacillin (methicillin) as well as susceptibility to complement-mediated killing. Mutations in ebh are associated with reduced survival of mutant staphylococci in blood and diminished virulence in mice. We propose that Ebh, following its secretion into the cross wall, contributes to the characteristic cell growth and envelope assembly pathways of S. aureus, thereby enabling complement resistance and the pathogenesis of staphylococcal infections.
PMCID: PMC3957702  PMID: 24363342
5.  Lipoteichoic Acids, Phosphate-Containing Polymers in the Envelope of Gram-Positive Bacteria 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(6):1133-1142.
Lipoteichoic acids (LTA) are polymers of alternating units of a polyhydroxy alkane, including glycerol and ribitol, and phosphoric acid, joined to form phosphodiester units that are found in the envelope of Gram-positive bacteria. Here we review four different types of LTA that can be distinguished on the basis of their chemical structure and describe recent advances in the biosynthesis pathway for type I LTA, d-alanylated polyglycerol-phosphate linked to di-glucosyl-diacylglycerol. The physiological functions of type I LTA are discussed in the context of inhibitors that block their synthesis and of mutants with discrete synthesis defects. Research on LTA structure and function represents a large frontier that has been investigated in only few Gram-positive bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3957714  PMID: 24415723
6.  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
7.  Staphylococcus aureus Mutants Lacking the LytR-CpsA-Psr Family of Enzymes Release Cell Wall Teichoic Acids into the Extracellular Medium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(20):4650-4659.
The LytR-CpsA-Psr (LCP) proteins are thought to transfer bactoprenol-linked biosynthetic intermediates of wall teichoic acid (WTA) to the peptidoglycan of Gram-positive bacteria. In Bacillus subtilis, mutants lacking all three LCP enzymes do not deposit WTA in the envelope, while Staphylococcus aureus Δlcp mutants display impaired growth and reduced levels of envelope phosphate. We show here that the S. aureus Δlcp mutant synthesized WTA yet released ribitol phosphate polymers into the extracellular medium. Further, Δlcp mutant staphylococci no longer restricted the deposition of LysM-type murein hydrolases to cell division sites, which was associated with defects in cell shape and increased autolysis. Mutations in S. aureus WTA synthesis genes (tagB, tarF, or tarJ2) inhibit growth, which is attributed to the depletion of bactoprenol, an essential component of peptidoglycan synthesis (lipid II). The growth defect of S. aureus tagB and tarFJ mutants was alleviated by inhibition of WTA synthesis with tunicamycin, whereas the growth defect of the Δlcp mutant was not relieved by tunicamycin treatment or by mutation of tagO, whose product catalyzes the first committed step of WTA synthesis. Further, sortase A-mediated anchoring of proteins to peptidoglycan, which also involves bactoprenol and lipid II, was not impaired in the Δlcp mutant. We propose a model whereby the S. aureus Δlcp mutant, defective in tethering WTA to the cell wall, cleaves WTA synthesis intermediates, releasing ribitol phosphate into the medium and recycling bactoprenol for peptidoglycan synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3807444  PMID: 23935043
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  Synthesis of Lipoteichoic Acids in Bacillus anthracis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(16):4312-4321.
Lipoteichoic acid (LTA), a glycerol phosphate polymer, is a component of the envelope of Gram-positive bacteria that has hitherto not been identified in Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax. LTA synthesis in Staphylococcus aureus and other microbes is catalyzed by the product of the ltaS gene, a membrane protein that polymerizes polyglycerol phosphate from phosphatidyl glycerol. Here we identified four ltaS homologues, designated ltaS1 to -4, in the genome of Bacillus anthracis. Polyglycerol phosphate-specific monoclonal antibodies were used to detect LTA in the envelope of B. anthracis strain Sterne (pXO1+ pXO2−) vegetative forms. B. anthracis mutants lacking ltaS1, ltaS2, ltaS3, or ltaS4 did not display defects in growth or LTA synthesis. In contrast, B. anthracis strains lacking both ltaS1 and ltaS2 were unable to synthesize LTA and exhibited reduced viability, altered envelope morphology, aberrant separation of vegetative forms, and decreased sporulation efficiency. Expression of ltaS1 or ltaS2 alone in B. anthracis as well as in other microbes was sufficient for polyglycerol phosphate synthesis. Thus, similar to S. aureus, B. anthracis employs LtaS enzymes to synthesize LTA, an envelope component that promotes bacterial growth and cell division.
PMCID: PMC3416223  PMID: 22685279
16.  Surface-Layer (S-Layer) Proteins Sap and EA1 Govern the Binding of the S-Layer-Associated Protein BslO at the Cell Septa of Bacillus anthracis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(15):3833-3840.
The Gram-positive pathogen Bacillus anthracis contains 24 genes whose products harbor the structurally conserved surface-layer (S-layer) homology (SLH) domain. Proteins endowed with the SLH domain associate with the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP) following secretion. Two such proteins, Sap and EA1, have the unique ability to self-assemble into a paracrystalline layer on the surface of bacilli and form S layers. Other SLH domain proteins can also be found within the S layer and have been designated Bacillus S-layer-associated protein (BSLs). While both S-layer proteins and BSLs bind the same SCWP, their deposition on the cell surface is not random. For example, BslO is targeted to septal peptidoglycan zones, where it catalyzes the separation of daughter cells. Here we show that an insertional lesion in the sap structural gene results in elongated chains of bacilli, as observed with a bslO mutant. The chain length of the sap mutant can be reduced by the addition of purified BslO in the culture medium. This complementation in trans can be explained by an increased deposition of BslO onto the surface of sap mutant bacilli that extends beyond chain septa. Using fluorescence microscopy, we observed that the Sap S layer does not overlap the EA1 S layer and slowly yields to the EA1 S layer in a growth-phase-dependent manner. Although present all over bacilli, Sap S-layer patches are not observed at septa. Thus, we propose that the dynamic Sap/EA1 S-layer coverage of the envelope restricts the deposition of BslO to the SCWP at septal rings.
PMCID: PMC3416523  PMID: 22609927
17.  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
18.  Recurrent infections and immune evasion strategies of Staphylococcus aureus 
Staphylococcus aureus causes purulent skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) that frequently reoccur. Staphylococal SSTIs can lead to invasive disease and sepsis, which are among the most significant causes of infectious disease mortality in both developed and developing countries. Human or animal infections with S. aureus do not elicit protective immunity against staphylococcal diseases. Here we review what is known about the immune evasive strategies of S. aureus that enable the pathogen’s escape from protective immune responses. Three secreted products are discussed in detail, staphylococcal protein A (SpA), staphylococcal binder of immunoglobulin (Sbi) and adenosine synthase A (AdsA). By forming a complex with VH3-type IgM on the surface of B cells, SpA functions as a superantigen to modulate antibody responses to staphylococcal infection. SpA also captures pathogen-specific antibodies by binding their Fcγ portion. The latter activity of SpA is shared by Sbi, which also associates with complement factors 3d and factor H to promote the depletion of complement. AdsA synthesizes the immune signaling molecule adenosine, thereby dampening innate and adaptive immune responses during infection. We discuss strategies how the three secreted products of staphylococci may be exploited for the development of vaccines and therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3538788  PMID: 22088393
19.  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
20.  Exploring Staphylococcus aureus pathways to disease for vaccine development 
Seminars in immunopathology  2011;34(2):317-333.
Staphylococcus aureus is a commensal of the human skin or nares and a pathogen that frequently causes skin and soft tissue infections as well as bacteremia and sepsis. Recent efforts in understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis revealed key virulence strategies of S. aureus in host tissues: bacterial scavenging of iron, induction of coagulation pathways to promote staphylococcal agglutination in the vasculature, and suppression of innate and adaptive immune responses. Advances in all three areas have been explored for opportunities in vaccine design in an effort to identify the critical protective antigens of S. aureus. Human clinical trials with specific subunit vaccines have failed, yet provide important insights for the design of future trials that must address the current epidemic of S. aureus infections with drug-resistant isolates (MRSA, methicillin-resistant S. aureus).
PMCID: PMC3539746  PMID: 22130613
MRSA; Iron; Coagulation; Immunmodulation
21.  Expression of Multidrug Resistance Efflux Pump Gene norA Is Iron Responsive in Staphylococcus aureus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(7):1753-1762.
Staphylococcus aureus utilizes efflux transporter NorA to pump out a wide range of structurally dissimilar drugs, conferring low-level multidrug resistance. The regulation of norA expression has yet to be fully understood although past studies have revealed that this gene is under the control of the global transcriptional regulator MgrA and the two-component system ArlRS. To identify additional regulators of norA, we screened a transposon library in strain Newman expressing the transcriptional fusion norA-lacZ for altered β-galactosidase activity. We identify a transposon insertion in fhuB, a gene that encodes a ferric hydroxamate uptake system permease, and propose that the norA transcription is iron responsive. In agreement with this observation, addition of FeCl3 repressed the induction of norA-lacZ, suggesting that bacterial iron uptake plays an important role in regulating norA transcription. In addition, a fur (ferric uptake regulator) deletion exhibited compromised norA transcription and reduced resistance to quinolone compared to the wild-type strain, indicating that fur functions as a positive regulator of norA. A putative Fur box identified in the promoter region of norA was confirmed by electrophoretic mobility shift and DNase I footprint assays. Finally, by employing a siderophore secretion assay, we reveal that NorA may contribute to the export of siderophores. Collectively, our experiments uncover some novel interactions between cellular iron level and norA regulation in S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC3302473  PMID: 22267518
22.  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
23.  Characterization of EssB, a protein required for secretion of ESAT-6 like proteins in Staphylococcus aureus  
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:219.
Staphylococcus aureus secretes EsxA and EsxB, two small polypeptides of the WXG100 family of proteins. Genetic analyses have shown that production and secretion of EsxA and EsxB require an intact ESAT-6 Secretion System (ESS), a cluster of genes that is conserved in many Firmicutes and encompasses esxA and esxB . Here, we characterize EssB, one of the proteins encoded by the ESS cluster. EssB is highly conserved in Gram-positive bacteria and belongs to the Cluster of Orthologous Groups of protein COG4499 with no known function.
By generating an internal deletion in essB , we demonstrate that EssB is required for secretion of EsxA. We use a polyclonal antibody to identify EssB and show that the protein fractionates with the plasma membrane of S. aureus . Yet, when produced in Escherichia coli, EssB remains mostly soluble and the purified protein assembles into a highly organized oligomer that can be visualized by electron microscopy. Production of truncated EssB variants in wild-type S. aureus confers a dominant negative phenotype on EsxA secretion.
The data presented here support the notion that EssB may oligomerize and interact with other membrane components to form the WXG100-specific translocon in S. aureus .
PMCID: PMC3489787  PMID: 23006124
ESAT-6 secretion; ESS; WXG100; EssB; Type 7 secretion; Staphylococcus aureus
24.  The SLH-domain protein BslO is a determinant of Bacillus anthracis chain length 
Molecular microbiology  2011;81(1):192-205.
The Gram-positive pathogen Bacillus anthracis grows in characteristic chains of individual, rod-shaped cells. Here, we report the cell-separating activity of BslO, a putative N-acetylglucosaminidase bearing three N-terminal S-layer homology (SLH) domains for association with the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP). Mutants with an insertional lesion in the bslO gene exhibit exaggerated chain lengths, though individual cell dimensions are unchanged. Purified BslO complements this phenotype in trans, effectively dispersing chains of bslO-deficient bacilli without lysis and localizing to the septa of vegetative cells. Compared to the extremely long chain lengths of csaB bacilli, which are incapable of binding proteins with SLH-domains to SCWP, bslO mutants demonstrate an chaining phenotype that is intermediate between wild-type and csaB. Computational simulation suggests that BslO effects a non-random distribution of B. anthracis chain lengths, implying that all septa are not equal candidates for separation.
PMCID: PMC3124567  PMID: 21585566
25.  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

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